How Can Mental Health Issues Affect Your Divorce?
Marriage can be a source of satisfaction and joy, as well as of frustration and despair. Without question, mental health issues can complicate a marriage, straining ties and leaving one or both partners to consider divorce. If you find yourself contemplating the end of your marriage and mental health issues are a factor, you should know that such matters can impact the course of your divorce, including settlement and custody issues.
What Might a Judge Consider?
It’s important that the court generally expects some degree of distress in the parties in the event of divorce. After all, it is a major life change. If one partner was blind sighted or otherwise unprepared for the request, it makes sense for some level of temporary mental/emotional strain to set in. To be clear—just because you view your spouse as crazy it doesn’t mean a court will agree. Rather, mental illness that affects one’s ability to make decisions and/or to care for the children will be more relevant. There are some key points on this topic worth noting:
- Any divorce involving a problem with mental incompetence is by default going to be particularly difficult for both individuals;
- The courts require that both parties demonstrate mental cognizance/capacity in order to give consent to a divorce;
- When someone is declared mentally incompetent, having a diagnosable mental illness can assist in the proceedings.
What is “Serious Mental Illness?”
The National Institute of Mental Health notes that serious mental illnesses affect just five out of a hundred adults in this country. Only a few disorders fall into this category, such as schizophrenia, severe bipolar disease, and major depressive disorder. These illnesses may lead to significant alterations to one’s behavior as a result of mental and emotional changes, and may ultimately result in the inability for someone to function effectively within the scope of family, job, or societal activities.
Degenerative Mental Conditions
Altzheimer’s, Lewy Body Disease, and other forms of dementia impact millions of Americans, leading to changes in behavior, memory loss, hallucinations, and irrationality. Sometimes a spouse suffering from such a disease is unable to understand and consent to a divorce. What are the options then?
If your spouse has been diagnosed with a condition that limits their ability to understand or agree to a divorce, one option is to have a guardian appointed to look out for their interests. Yes, if the individual is being hospitalized it is likely to impact custody determinations. It will also likely impact the financial settlement agreement because the cost of care will be a factor. Cases involving less severe illness will often require a custody evaluation, psychological testing, and a background check related to mental and emotional capacity. A guardian ad litem may be appointed to address the children’s best interests. At any rate, anyone dealing with a divorce under these circumstances could benefit from the assistance of a compassionate and knowledgeable Springfield divorce attorney. At Courtney & Mills, that is exactly what you can count on as we navigate the moral and legal issues. Contact our office for a confidential consultation today.