Growing awareness of mental health has chipped away at long-held misunderstandings and misconceptions about the nature of psychological problems. Many estranged from their spouses are going through the divorce process. A good number already suffer from depression and anxiety brought on by a marriage ending, making a bad situation worse.
Modern-day elected representatives aren’t known for coming together in agreement. However, one issue has united the Louisiana state legislature, passing unanimously to provide much-needed mental health evaluations as part of divorce and child custody proceedings.
Specifically, the court is now required to appoint a licensed mental health professional to conduct an evaluation for domestic violence or custody/visitation. Language in the bill defines a mental health professional as someone with a master’s degree and licensed in counseling, social work, psychology, marriage, and family counseling. Those exempt from licensing requirements are also eligible.
Some court systems in Louisiana already have a similar process in place. Enactment of the bill will make it law throughout the state.
In the end, the judges continue their role as “gatekeepers.” Whether they consider or rely on expert opinions, the judges will make decisions based on the best interests of children.
Divorce is a traumatic time even for those not dealing with depression. Recognizing the impact that divorce has on adults and children is an essential first step toward ensuring that mental health issues need proactive, not reactive, attention. In the end, all dealing with the trauma of marital dissolution can get through a legally challenging and often emotionally-charged process.