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Proving Mental Illness In Divorce

Mental Illness As A Factor In Divorce

Psychological abuse – caught in harmful relationships | Signe M. Hegestand | TEDxAarhus

Theres little doubt that divorce and mental illness are strongly correlated. One longitudinal study published in the journal BMC Public Health indicated the risk of divorce was significantly higher when at least one party was mentally distressed. In another fairly recent multinational study, researchers analyzed marriage and divorce rates of those with a mix of 18 different mental health conditions. Every single one within a range of 20 to 80 percent was associated with increased likelihood of divorce.

Among those conditions most strongly associated with divorce:

  • Major depression and anxiety. Spouses who are depressed often fail to engage in the relationship. Theyre not able to fill work obligations, leading to financial woes. Their spouses may become burned out and resentful. Someone with high anxiety may also need a high degree of spousal support that becomes cumbersome over time.
  • PTSD . This can be paralyzing for the person directly affected, but spouses often absorb the brunt of it expressed in anger, irritability, hostility, paranoia or even violence.
  • Personality disorders . People with these conditions can be unstable, impulsive, reckless, erratic, or even paranoid all of which can destroy a relationship.

Even when one has a good handle on their mental health, divorce can easily tip the scales, triggering a spiral with rippling effects during the proceedings and beyond.

Are You Concerned For Your Childrens Safety

During a divorce, you and your spouse may continue to share custody of your children. If you are concerned that your loved ones diagnosed or undiagnosed condition jeopardizes your childrens health, well-being, development, or immediately safety, inform your attorney right away.

Your divorce lawyer can pursue a temporary child custody order. If you wish to obtain full custody or limit your spouses time alone with the children, you will need to provide evidence of their condition and how it has or may harm the kids.

Keepthe Divorce Process Friendly

No matter howcomplicated the situation gets, always try your best to keep things friendlyfrom your end especially if you have children to look after. Do not fightover unnecessary details and try to make reasonable agreements with yourspouse. Keep their mental situation in mind while you do that. Go for someother more friendly divorce alternatives if you can. Its okay ifyou have to lose a thing or two, but make sure the divorce process is easy onboth of you.

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My Spouse Relies On Me

In many situations, a spouse with a mental illness may come to rely heavily on their spouse for emotional support, companionship, and social connection. This can put a strain on the marriage and make the well spouse feel overwhelmed. It is important that you receive the emotional support that you need while divorcing a spouse with mental illness.

Can My Spouses Illness Prevent Me From Getting A Divorce

Mentally Damaged

One of the most commonly asked questions regarding mental illness and divorce is Can you divorce someone who is mentally ill? Generally, yes, you can. Some states allow you to divorce a spouse on the grounds of a mental illness. In any event, mental illness and marriage laws do not require that your spouse allow you to get divorced. If you want a divorce, you can seek a divorce, even if your spouse does not want the divorce or cooperate. You cannot be forced to remain married against your will. If your spouse is considered incapacitated, the court may appoint a person to look out for their interests during the proceeding.

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Feelings Of Guilt Or Shame

One of the problems associated with mental illness and divorce is the accompanying feelings of guilt or shame about divorcing someone with a mental illness. However, it is important for you to keep things in perspective. Many spouses of mentally ill individuals have gone through the ringer before they make the difficult decision to get a divorce. They may have been physically, mentally, or emotionally abused. They may have waited up countless nights while their spouse was on binges or cheating. They may have become the primary breadwinner and had to maintain some sense of financial stability because their spouse was unable to. In some cases, when dealing with a husband with mental illness, divorce is the best solution. Consider how much you have tried to make it work with your mentally ill husband. Divorce may be the relief you need after going through so much trauma yourself.

Termination Of Parental Rights

In some cases, mental illness can lead to a parent losing their rights over their child. Anyone in the childs life who is concerned about their well-being can request that the court terminates parental rights for the parent in question. This can be a relative, doctor, or agency, as well as the other parent.

Termination of parental rights is permanent, so the judge will only select this option if the situation is extreme. If the child is at serious risk for mental or physical damage and the parents illness appears indefinite, termination of parental rights is a distinct possibility. A history of abusing alcohol, controlled substances, or other drugs may also be enough for the court to legally end a parent-child relationship.

When the court removes a child from the parents home temporarily, it must attempt to help the adult resolve their issues and reunite the family. This, however, might not apply if the persons mental illness is so severe that attempting reunification is a futile effort.

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Can My Spouse’s Insanity Prevent Me From Obtaining A Divorce

In criminal cases, insanity can act as a legal defense to certain criminal charges. However, the rules of criminal procedure aren’t applicable in divorce cases. You or your spouse can’t avoid a divorce by pleading insanity. Nevertheless, a spouse’s severe mental health issues may entitle that spouse to additional protections under the law, particularly if that spouse is housed in a mental health facility. In many states, a judge will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a spouse who has debilitating mental health issues or is housed in a mental health facility to ensure that the ill spouse’s legal interests are represented in a divorce.

Does Ptsd Affect Child Custody

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If you are currently battling for custody, the other party may be using your PTSD against you. While this may seem scary and hopeless, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will lose the trial. If you are actively seeking treatment, this can further help your case. Once again, the court will evaluate your mental health and determine whether the child’s best interests are affected.

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My Spouse Has A Mental Illness

According to Mental Illness Policy Org., about 50% of people with severe psychiatric disorders are not being treated for their mental illness. This includes people who have been diagnosed with a mental illness but who are not following a treatment plan or actively seeing a mental health professional for help with their condition.

Many people have undiagnosed mental illnesses but hesitate to seek assistance for a number of reasons, such as:

  • They do not admit there is a problem
  • There is a negative stigma attached to mental health problems
  • They may not be able to afford professional help
  • They prioritize other responsibilities over seeking help
  • They do not believe that counseling or other forms of treatment will be effective

It is important to encourage your spouse to overcome their fears and seek out treatment of their mental illness.

Diagnosing A Mental Illness

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19.1% or 47.6 million U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018. The first step to treating a mental illness is to diagnose it. The Mayo Clinic outlines the following ways to receive a diagnosis for mental illness:

  • Physical examination A medical doctor can rule out physical conditions that may explain the symptoms your spouse is experiencing.
  • Lab tests The doctor may order a variety of tests to rule out substance abuse issues or other physical conditions.
  • A psychological evaluation A doctor or mental health professional talks to your spouse about their symptoms, behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. Your spouse may also fill out questionnaires or be given tests to help identify the particular type of mental illness.

Some ways that you can help your spouse through this process include:

  • Show support for your spouse during this time
  • Encourage your spouse to seek a diagnosis
  • Learn more about the mental illness your spouse has once he or she is diagnosed
  • Do not attempt to become your spouses counselor let the professionals do their job
  • Seek your own counseling to help you deal with the situation

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Other Ways Mental Illness Can Shape Divorce

Major decisions on issues like alimony, child custody, parenting time/visitation, and division of property can be affected by ones history or ongoing struggles with mental illness.

For example, in child custody and parenting time cases, the top priority will always be the best interests of the child. If one of the parents is clearly struggling with mental illness, there will be questions about whether a child in that parents care will have:

  • A livable residence.
  • Reliable transportation.

Bear in mind: A diagnosis alone probably isnt going to jeopardize anyones parenting time There needs to be just cause.

Child support is going to be based on a number of factors as well, with different states having their own guidelines. Ones mental condition has an undeniable impact on a persons ability to pay, now and in the future. Same goes for alimony/spousal support and equitable distribution.

One may argue salary and earning capacity is significantly diminished by ongoing mental health struggles.

As for equitable distribution , courts may award a spouse who is mentally ill a larger share of the marital estate if they find mental illness impedes one spouses ability to work and earn income on their own.

Alimony And Distribution Of Marital Property

Law Web: Divorce can not be granted on ground of mental impotency of wife

North Carolina law allows the courts to determine the amount of alimony to award, and how long alimony will be paid. One of the factors that courts must consider is the spouses’ mental and emotional condition.

The law also says that if one spouse starts a divorce, and the other spouse is insane and doesn’t have sufficient income or assets to provide for his or her own care, the one seeking the divorce must provide for that care.

Also, when it comes to dividing marital property during a divorce, the court must look at the spouses’ physical andmental health, when making a decision.

Once a court looks at all of these issues, it will divide property and award alimony in way that is equitable . If you have questions about your own case, please contact a local family law attorney for advice.

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Mental Illness Is Common

Unfortunately, there is a real stigma associated with mental illness that leaves many people prone to sweeping the matter under the rug. Doing so, however, can make the matter that much more difficult to address and can leave a person without help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness shares all the following statistics related to exactly how common mental illness is:

  • Every year, one in five adults in the U.S. experience some kind of mental illness.
  • Every year, 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. experiences a form of serious mental illness.
  • In 2019, 9.5 million adults in the U.S. experienced a substance abuse disorder that was concurrent with a mental illness.

In other words, if your spouse is suffering from a mental health issue, you are far from alone.

Helping You Prove Mental Illness In Child Custody Cases

When it all comes down to it, child custody is about the relationship you have with your child. A spouse with mental illness can negatively impact this and cause permanent relational problems within your family. By retaining a dedicated legal advocate, you may be able to minimize much of these problems.

  • 70 Years of Combined Experience
  • Tenacious & Compassionate

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Mental Health And Grounds For Divorce

In California, a spouse seeking a divorce doesn’t have to prove that the other spouse caused the divorce this is called “no-fault divorce.” However, in specific circumstances, a spouse can seek a divorce based on the other spouse’s mental illness. California courts can dissolve a marriage on the grounds that a spouse is permanently unable to make decisions, known as “legal incapacity.” Legal incapacity is a determination that a person is of unsound mind and lacks the ability to make decisions such as getting married, entering into contracts, making medical decisions, or executing wills or trusts. A person who is legally incapable of making decisions has deficits in one or more of the following categories:

  • alertness and attention
  • information processing
  • thought processes
  • ability to modulate mood and affect

A spouse seeking a divorce for legal incapacity must prove that the other spouse permanently lacked the capacity to make decisions at the time of the divorce filing. The judge will require the testimony or statement of multiple mental health professionals to determine whether the spouse in question suffers from mental illness to the extent that spouse is legally incapable of making decisions.

My Spouse Develops A Mental Illness

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Given the large percentage of people who struggle with mental illness, it is likely that many people will develop a mental illness during their marriages. The Mayo Clinic reports that there are several genetic and environmental factors that can lead to mental illness, including:

  • Genetics Mental illness is more common in people whose relatives also have a mental illness.
  • Environmental exposures prior to birth If your spouses mother was exposed to certain environmental stressors, toxins, alcohol, or drugs during her pregnancy, your spouse may be at greater risk of developing a mental illness.
  • Brain chemistry Neural networks that carry messages from neurotransmitters may be impaired, which may lead to mental health problems.
  • Life situations A person may have risk factors for mental illness and then a life situation, such as trauma, financial problems, a loved ones death, divorce, or a history of childhood abuse may trigger the mental illness.

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How Will Mental Health Issues Affect Divorce Orders

Either spouse’s mental health issues can impact everything from property division to child custody. Different states have different laws and certain factors a judge should consider when issuing support awards or determining physical custody arrangements, but generally mental illness plays the biggest role in support and custody rulings.

Child Custody And Mental Health

One of the biggest concerns for parents who are considering divorce is child custody. While many believe that custody is routinely given to the mother or the parent with more money, thats not the case.

In child custody cases, courts in Arizona will consider a range of relevant factors, including the health of each parent or guardian involved. If one of the parents is mentally ill, the judge will look at whether or not the illness impacts their ability to parent their child. They may request that the mentally ill parent undergo a mental examination to determine this.

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Can I Cite Mental Illness As The Cause Of The Divorce

It may be possible in some states to file for divorce on the fault-based grounds of a spouses mental illness. That doesnt necessarily mean its a good idea.

Laws vary from state-to-state, but all 50 states have recognized no-fault divorce since 2010. No fault divorce is a type of legal proceeding in which the filing spouse need not prove fault on the part of the other. They simply check the irreconcilable differences box.

Among those states that still allow fault-based divorce, mental illness may or may not be on the list. Even so, the requirements are pretty stringent.

For example, in New Jersey where Rozin-Golinder practices, N.J. Rev. Stat. 2A:34-2 allows New Jersey divorcees to file on the fault basis of institutionalization for mental illness for a period of at least two years preceding the complaint. In Maryland, Md. Code, Family Law § 7-103 allows fault-based divorce on grounds of insanity if the mentally ill spouse has been confined to a mental institution or hospital for at least 3 years and the court hears testimony from at least two psychiatrists attesting the insanity is incurable with no hope of recovery. Connecticut, on the other hand, offers divorce on grounds of mental illness, but only if the spouse has been confined to a mental institution for five years within the six-year period preceding the date of the divorce complaint.

When Would You Need To Prove Mental Or Physical Cruelty In A Divorce

What is Parental Alienation and What Can You Do About It?

Before Colorado became a no-fault divorce state, the party filing for divorce had to prove fault for a dissolution of marriage. One of the potential grounds for a fault divorce was cruelty. The law did not force someone to stay in a marriage in which he or she was being physically harmed. Today, however, with the no-fault law, it is enough to state that the relationship has been irretrievably broken to get divorced.

Although it is not necessary to prove mental or physical cruelty to get a divorce, it may be necessary to prove cruelty for other reasons, such as to argue for sole custody of your children. The courts will take cruelty or domestic violence into consideration when determining the appropriate child custody arrangement. If you can prove mental or physical cruelty, this could help you protect your children from an arrangement that is not in their best interest.

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