Chase, Berenstein and Murray, Counselors at Law provides collaborative divorce solutions to clients in San Mateo, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties.

How might my spouse’s mental illness affect our divorce?

Just as mental illness can wreak havoc on someone’s life, it can also be destructive to a marriage. It’s not uncommon for people whose spouses have a mental illness to decide they’ve reached their capacity to cope and ask for a divorce.

When that happens, it might cause you to wonder how, your spouse’s mental illness ultimately factor into your divorce process?

How severe is your spouse’s mental illness?

Mental illness comes in many different forms and severities. If your spouse has chronic depression, anxiety or even bipolar disorder but the condition is well-managed, your divorce may proceed similar to a divorce process where mental illness is not present.

Here are scenarios when the mental illness can make a divorce more challenging:

  • If the condition is not well-managed
  • If your spouse is prone to episodes of decompensation
  • If your spouse has periods of psychosis or
  • If your spouse has a drug addiction that has taken control of his/her life

The ability to make decisions

If your spouse has moderate mental illness, they may struggle to make decisions or complete paperwork. Your spouse might make decisions and then abruptly change their mind. If the illness is out of control, they may lack the capacity to make valid agreements. This can make the process more challenging.

When you file for divorce, you may need to inform the court that capacity may be an issue. This alerts the court that there may need to be more involvement of the court. If there is concern about capacity, the court can appoint a guardian ad litem for your spouse to make decisions and act on their behalf.

Child custody and spousal support

Your spouse’s mental health may also affect the agreements that you need to make. If your spouse’s illness (especially if they’re an addict or have psychosis) could endanger the children, that makes custody a more challenging and sometimes fraught issue. It is important that your children have  a relationship with their ill parent is safe, and the court can implement measures that protect your children.

If your spouse is unable to work because of mental illness, it will impact the amount and perhaps the duration of spousal support.

Ultimately, your spouse’s mental health issues won’t prevent your divorce, but it likely means the process could take longer than you would like and may more court intervention.