Parental Rights from Laurie's blog

Family law and parental rights has everything to do with attorneys and how they handle the case for their client.  If you are a parent who is either getting a divorce or already divorced, you know well that parental rights are determined largely by how your attorney services your needs or not.  Once mental health is introduced to the case, the game changes and parental rights may become obsolete.  In a presentation made to the Georgia Annual Bar Admissions Conference, in 2012, Dr. Michael J. Herkov, Neuropsychiatrist, spoke to the attorneys about mental illness. This may, on the surface, seem appropriate to some, but with further thought it seems absurd that an attorney would need to know about mental health. It is an admittance of our times, that mental health and the practice of, has entered into almost every single professional field in our culture. 


Teachers are given courses on mental health so that they can, supposedly, spot children who have learning disorders or behavioral issues and ensure that the student gets the “appropriate attention”.  Law enforcement officers are given courses on mental health so that they can, supposedly, prevent violence and disastrous situations in the community.  Again, on the surface, this may seem appropriate to some, and with further thought it’s actually practicing mental health without a license. 


In reviewing Dr. Herkov’s presentation, he is comparing the physician and the attorney and their value to society. In this comparison he mentions that attorneys “are sought out by the general public during times of personal vulnerability, turmoil, conflict, or stress.” He goes further to say that perhaps the attorney is more sought out than the medical professional during these times. That’s an incredible comparison and a clear path to now introduce the subject of mental health to the profession of law. 


In his own words, Dr. Herkov states, “the client is highly dependent upon the skill of the attorney in understanding and resolving the issue.”


With that in mind, consider the facts instead of the apparent, especially within the family court arena.  Factually, Dr. Allen Frances, former editor of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), “Adding to the woes of the medically ill could be one of the biggest problems caused by DSM 5. It will do this in two ways: 1) by encouraging a quick jump to the erroneous conclusion that someone's physical symptoms are 'all in the head'; and 2) by mislabeling as mental disorders what are really just the normal emotional reactions that people understandably have in response to a medical illness.” Factually, medical professionals have documented that there are medical tests that can be performed to identify physical illness or ailments that are causing mental health problems. Additionally, Dr. Frances is correct when he says that some of the symptoms can be “normal” reactions to life.  The New York Times published an article in 2011, titled, “For Some, Psychiatric Trouble May Start in Thyroid”, and the article reports, “In patients with depression, anxiety and other psychiatric problems, doctors often find abnormal blood levels of thyroid hormone. Treating the problem, they have found, can lead to improvements in mood, memory and cognition. Now researchers are exploring a somewhat controversial link between minor, or subclinical, thyroid problems and some patients’ psychiatric difficulties.” 


Returning to the imposed correlation between attorneys and mental health, Dr. Herkov, tells us, in his presentation at the Bar Admissions Conference, “Attorneys must possess basic cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skills. These attributes are often referred to as the ‘essential eligibility requirements’ for the practice of law. The importance of these qualities is well recognized by state boards of bar examiners (and/or their separate character and fitness committees) whose members are charged with verifying that applicants to the bare meet these basic criteria.”


So, not only are attorneys reviewed for their mental health fitness, they are now familiar with the subject of mental illness in dealing with their own practices and clients and that familiarity came from a close scrutiny of their own well-being by the Bar Examiners.  Hence, the double-edged sword; the attorney first reviewed as a potential mental health patient, and then the attorney as the quasi-mental health practitioner.  The standard of care has become mental health diagnosing and medicating.  After all, if an attorney is found to be mentally unfit, meds are prescribed and taken and then he or she is deemed fit. 


No wonder, by the time a parent takes their case into family court, they may feel that their case is already taken a wrong turn. As many parents know, there is a whole cast of characters assigned to divorcees, within the family court arena that are mental health professionals.  Whether that is the child custody evaluator, the parent-coordinator, the guardian ad Litem or the court appointed psychologists, you can add one more to that cast, and that is potentially, your own attorney.  Keep in mind that most attorneys will have had a crash-course in mental health prior to opening the doors to their office.  


When it comes to divorce issues, one issue that is plaguing family courts, is the issue of psychotropic drugging.  If one parent does not want their child to take mental health drugs and the other parent does want the child to take them, the cast of characters, mentioned above, will most assuredly be assigned to the case.  With that, there will be a most definite leaning in the direction of drugging the child. Consider, not only your choice of attorney, who may or may not be on the meds themselves, but also the court appointed professionals.  Dig deep and find out who is influencing the proceedings in your case. 


In a Tampa Bay Times article, the public got a glimpse of the type of psychologist who might work in the family court arena. “As a psychologist who works primarily in the family courts, Flens and others like him stand at an unusual crossroads between social science and the law. Those who occupy it have enormous influence over cases whose emotional stakes are among the judiciary's highest. Expert witnesses who testify about the best custody arrangement for a child can salvage or ruin a parent's life, and their opinions shape the upbringing of the kids involved. These fateful choices command a high price. Court-approved psychologists routinely bill themselves out at rates of hundreds of dollars per hour; a single evaluation can cost litigants $10,000 or more.”


Dr. Herkov’s presentation continues with a definition of mental illness, mental disorders and guidelines for how to determine if the graduate of law school should be able to “engage in the practice of law” or whether they need “further examination, treatment, or monitoring before allowing the individual” to practice law. He uses the definition of mental illness that was published in the fourth edition of the DSM and he uses mental disorders and their definitions from the same manual.  Remember well, that Dr. Frances, former editor of this same manual, is denouncing the credibility of these disorder in that he is adding credibility to the fact that mental health symptoms can be traced back to an underlying physical cause that when evidenced by medical test, can be cured. 


Attorneys and mental health only becomes one more piece of the gigantic, moneymaking, puzzle that is the Pharma-Mental Health industry. An attorney, raked over the coals, in examination by the bar examiners, may learn well, firsthand that mental health disorders leads to mental health drugs and if he or she is placed on them, the cash-register for Pharma-Mental Health only continues to ring.  Once the court-appointed professionals are added to a case, the parent can hear again the ringing of that cash register, at his expense and the expense of his child’s well being. 


Parental rights are a relative term and the only comfort that can be offered is information.  The more information the parent has, prior to any court situation, the more he or she will be able to try to sway the relativity of his or her rights in the right direction.


Www.MentalHealthRights.org offers information to parents so that they can prevent and/or maneuver through these issues. An experienced advocate is available, by phone, for anyone who needs personal attention and information. 






Sources: 


The Bar Examiner, Volume 82, Number 1, march 2013, Mental Illness and The Practice of Law, http://www.ncbex.org/assets/media_files/Bar-Examiner/articles/2013/820113herkov.pdf


Psychology Today: Mislabeling Medical Illness As Mental Disorder, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dsm5-in-distress/201212/mislabeling-medical-illness-mental-disorder


New York Times: For Some, Psychiatric Trouble May Start in Thyroid, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/health/for-some-psychiatric-troubles-may-begin-with-the-thyroid.html


Tampa Bay Times Article: Powerful Valrico family court psychologist has a troubled past, http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/civil/powerful-valrico-family-court-psychologist-has-a-troubled-past/2152735



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The Wall

Apr 16 '15
Update related to this post: Justice Department Investigates Florida Supreme Court on Bar Mental Health Screening, http://m.dailybusinessreview.com//module/alm/app/dbr.do
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