Navigating Divorce with a Spouse Who Has Mental Health Issues

Tips for Divorcing a Spouse with Serious Mental Health Issues

A divorce can be complicated and stressful. If either spouse has mental health issues (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.), that can add a layer of complexity and complication. Here are a few tips for divorcing a spouse who has mental health issues.

Stay Informed About Your Spouse’s Mental Health

When divorcing someone with mental health issues, staying as informed as possible about their condition is important. Not only will this help you better understand their behavior and how it impacts the divorce process, but it also ensures that they get the help they need. Talk to your spouse’s doctor or therapist if necessary–you may need to sign a release form in order to do so–so you have all the facts you need.

If you have children, your spouse’s current health status can impact child custody determinations. Specifically, the court prioritizes the best interest of the child, which refers to the child’s health, safety, and welfare.

While a parent with mental health concerns can be awarded custody, the court will consider how their condition affects their parenting ability and their child’s welfare. Thus, if you have concerns or relevant information about how their health can impact your child’s safety or well-being, you should inform your attorney.

Prepare Yourself Mentally & Emotionally

It’s not uncommon for individuals going through a divorce to experience a wide range of emotions—from grief to anger to denial and finally acceptance. If your spouse has mental health issues, you should be mindful of how the divorce might affect them even more deeply during emotionally charged situations such as court hearings or mediation sessions.

It’s also important to keep your cool when these moments arise and avoid engaging in arguments with them; instead, take a break from the situation if needed and agree on ground rules before resuming negotiations.

Take Time for Self-Care

As we’ve mentioned, the divorce process can be extremely taxing on both parties involved; as such, make sure that you are taking time for yourself throughout the divorce proceedings in order to reduce stress levels and maintain healthy habits such as exercise and good nutrition. Additionally, don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you feel like you could benefit from counseling or therapy during this time.

Understand Your Rights and Responsibilities

If your spouse is not able to handle the legal proceedings due to their mental illness, then you may need to take on more of the responsibility for filing paperwork, setting up court dates, etc. In more severe cases, if your spouse is permanently incapacitated or incurably affected by their mental health issues, you can pursue a divorce on those grounds.

California is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you cannot file on fault-based grounds. However, the state, in certain circumstances, allows for incurable insanity to be the basis for a divorce. To pursue a divorce on these grounds, your spouse will have to be found mentally incapacitated by a court-appointed specialist or psychiatric professional.

If found legally incapacitated, then your spouse’s signature might not be necessary in order for the papers to be legally binding. Therefore, it's essential that you work closely with an attorney who understands all of these nuances.

Consider Mediation or Other Alternatives

It may be beneficial for both parties involved if they opt for mediation or another alternative dispute resolution process instead of traditional litigation. Mediation allows both sides to discuss their concerns openly and work towards compromise in a non-adversarial setting which may provide better outcomes than traditional courtroom battles do in such cases.

Seek Professional Support

It is normal—and healthy—to feel overwhelmed when navigating such an emotional situation as a divorce with mental health issues at play. Therefore, it is important that you seek out professional support from friends and family as well as counseling if necessary throughout this process. This will ensure that you have people in your corner who can provide emotional support as well as practical advice about how best to proceed during this difficult time in your life.

Contact Our Firm

Divorcing someone who has mental health issues can add an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult process. However, by staying informed about your spouse’s condition, being prepared for emotional outbursts, and taking care of yourself throughout the process, you can navigate this situation with greater ease and find peace despite its challenges.

If you have questions about any aspect of divorcing someone with mental health issues, from legal considerations to emotional support, the attorneys at Fenchel Family Law PC are here and prepared to help you. We are committed to helping clients navigate their divorce as smoothly as possible, including in cases where either party has mental health issues.

Learn more about our services by calling (415) 650-1112 or reaching out online.