Mental Illness and Divorce

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in every four American adults is diagnosed with a mental illness. Many couples that are considering a divorce may have mental health issues or a diagnosis that plays a role in the decision. Mental illness can be considered a valid reason for a no-fault divorce.

The mental health of you or your spouse can affect the divorce proceedings and the kind of settlement the judge may award, whether it be for the spouses themselves or any children produced from the marriage.

Many laws exist that protect people with mental health conditions from discrimination in divorce cases. An experienced Phoenix divorce lawyer can inform you of these laws and if they are applicable in your case. To be sure that your mental health issues are not used against you to gain an unfair advantage in court, a judge will appoint a special lawyer called a guardian ad litem, in addition to your own lawyer. Their role is to make sure that decisions regarding your financial and personal interests are made in good faith and your best interests.

More often than not, a divorce hearing can get heated and dramatic, resulting in one spouse self-diagnosing a partner as having a mental illness when in fact the other party is emotionally stable. In some cases, judges may order psychiatric evaluations to consider which parents can provide a stable environment for their children in which to grow. Accusations of mental illness can result in proceedings delays, extra expenses, and lingering resentments between the parties.

When it comes to child custody agreements, just because you have a mental health condition does not mean you can’t be successful in fighting to see your children. It’s likely that your spouse will bring up the condition, no matter how minor, during the divorce proceedings, so be prepared to face questions about it. Careful planning with your lawyer is necessary to defend any accusations of instability that may come your way and address any concerns from the judge.

You may be required by the judge to sign over your mental health records or undergo a mental health evaluation, and while this may be embarrassing and invasive, it may be one of the only ways to overcome false or exaggerated allegations about your mental health.

If mental health issues are brought up in a divorce case, both couples should try their best to be realistic and reasonable. If you are the one with a diagnosed mental illness, ask for parenting time that allows you to spend time with your children but also leaves room for your to manage your mental health. Know your limitations and what you can balance. A Glendale family law attorney at The Sampair Group will be able to help you develop a wining strategy for child custody.