Do You Need a Mental Health Professional in Your Divorce Case?

Posted by Erin Birt | Mar 14, 2022 | 0 Comments

Do You Need a Mental Health Professional in Your Divorce Case?

Mental health providers like psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and social workers are often involved in Illinois divorce cases. However, the need for a mental health professional's involvement and their role during a divorce varies.

The following are a few ways a mental health professional may become involved in your divorce case, as well as some mental health resources if you need additional help during this emotionally taxing time.

Support for the Family

Illinois divorces are emotionally challenging for parents and children, even when the divorce is amicable. A mental health professional can help provide research-based advice and guidance to parents and their children, helping them navigate the divorce process and develop coping strategies.

Both family therapy and individual therapy can be useful during the divorce process. In family therapy, multiple family members meet together with a licensed mental health professional who helps facilitate communication and dispute resolution. In individual therapy, a family member works with their own therapist on a one-on-one basis to work through the emotional issues they are experiencing.

A divorce coach can also be helpful to add to your divorce professional team and most are a licensed mental health professional.

Testimony During the Divorce Case

At times, it is useful to involve mental health professionals more directly in a lawsuit. A mental health provider may offer testimony related to facts such as sharing that a child told them that one of their parents has a drinking problem or is abusive. Or, if qualified, a mental health provider may provide an expert opinion, such as which parent should have primary or full custody. Mental health professionals' testimony is particularly valuable in cases involving parental alienation.

Parties may call their own mental health professional, a mental health professional hired as an expert witness, or their former spouse's mental health professional. There are standards that must be met before a judge will allow a mental health professional's testimony. It is typically very difficult to get the testimony of another person's (such as your former spouse) mental health provider since the law seeks to preserve client-mental health professional confidentiality unless the testimony is absolutely necessary.

Even if you can secure their appearance in court, there are risks in having mental health professionals testify as witnesses in litigation. Therapists are subject to cross-examination during which they may reveal information that is detrimental to your Illinois divorce case or that you simply did not want to be disclosed. Non-expert witness mental health providers are also often reluctant to testify in court. Additionally, forcing a provider to testify can undermine the benefit of the provider-patient relationship.

Whether you should have one or more mental health professionals testify is a multi-faceted decision that an experienced Illinois divorce attorney will provide guidance and insight on.

Court Ordered Counseling

Illinois law, 750 ILCS 5/607.6, permits a judge to order counseling for children or parents in connection with divorce proceedings if:

  • Both parents agree
  • The child's physical health is endangered or emotional development impaired
  • Abuse of parenting time has occurred
  • One or both parents violated the allocation of parenting time

The law also emphasizes the confidentiality of these types of counseling sessions, which is intended to prevent them from being used strategically in a divorce. There is currently some uncertainty, however, regarding whether this prevents a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) from communicating with a child's court-appointed counselors. Such interactions are arguably necessary to allow the GAL to get the best idea of what is in the child's best interests.

Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with your mental health due to divorce or any other reason, support is available and can help you find hope. We strongly encourage you to contact your current mental health provider, if you have one, or reach out to one of these mental health resources:

24/7 Crisis Resources

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
  • Veteran's Crisis Line: (800) 273-8255, then press “1”
  • Crisis Line Text Messaging: Text REACH to 741741
  • DuPage County Crisis Services: (630) 627-1700

Other Mental Health Resources

  • National Alliance of Mental
  • Illness (NAMI) DuPage: (630) 752-0066
  • IL Opioid & Substance Helpline: (833) 234-6343
  • IL Warm Line: (866) 359-7953

You can also explore some of our favorite tools for personal wellness during a divorce.

Birt Law's Modern Approach

At The Law Firm of Erin N. Birt, P.C., we take a modern approach to help you through your divorce that keeps you informed throughout the process. Our DuPage County Divorce team has experience in divorce cases with and without the use of mental health providers and can help determine what is best for your case.

If you are looking for a modern DuPage County divorce or custody attorney who cares, contact us today here or at (630) 891-2478. For those who understandably want to minimize in-person contacts due to safety concerns or time constraints, we can provide virtual legal services by phone, text, online chat, and video conferencing when working with our law firm.


About the Author

Erin Birt

Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on parenting time, divorce, mediation, and substance abuse issues. Ms. Birt's unique background in both family law and addictions counseling help her clients successfully navigate the complex issues of coparenting and divorce. Ms. Birt also devotes her time to presenting at continuing education seminars for attorneys, mediators, and counselors.


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