Mental Health in Divorce

If you’ve found yourself in the situation of divorcing a mentally ill spouse, especially if children are involved, you’ll need to research all your options. You or your spouse may be the one initiating the divorce. Either way, do not leave the outcome up to chance. You’ll need an experienced lawyer to help you through these muddy waters.

Arizona is a no-fault state, which means that the court can grant a divorce no matter who or what is at fault. Also, when it comes to child custody cases, mental illness plays a large role regarding custody, alimony, and divorce in general.

Grounds for Divorce

You do not need a specific reason for filing for divorce in Arizona. However, you may still be requested to submit a reason or circumstance. For example, if your spouse has been seeking treatment in a mental institution for one or several years, then your reason for getting a divorce will clearly be mental illness on the part of your spouse. In other cases, a judge can actually deem a divorce as “at fault” if, for example, your spouse has committed a serious crime, has drug or alcohol dependency, or has a mental illness.

Can I Void my Marriage?

In some cases, yes. This is especially true for cases of mental illness. Your spouse may have married while not understanding what they were doing and the court finds this reason enough to void your marriage. Another reason to annul a marriage is if your spouse was intoxicated at the time of the ceremony and was unable to understand the implications.

Mental Health and Child Custody

When children are involved in a divorce, this is often the biggest concern on a parent’s mind. Unlike in the past, custody is not automatically given to the mother or the parent who is more financially stable.  In Arizona, the court will take into consideration multiple factors when determining child custody. This oftentimes includes the health of the parents, including mental health.

Determining Custodial Rights

If one parent has mental health issues, this not does automatically exclude them from custodial rights. Many parents with mental illness continue to have nurturing and positive relationships with their children. If however, a mental illness prevents a parent from caring for a child, this will be seriously considered by the courts in Arizona. The judge may also look at the implications of hardship for the child if they need to move, as well as the employment situation and the amount of time the parent has available to care for the child.

Terminating Parental Rights

There are cases where a parent with a mental illness loses their custodial rights. A spouse, concerned family member, or anyone else, like a doctor or agency, has the right to request the court terminate a parent’s custodial rights due to a mental illness. When this happens, the termination is permanent so the circumstances must be extreme. The child must be at serious risk of mental, emotional, or physical neglect or abuse. Furthermore, if a parent has a history of abusing drugs or alcohol, the court may deem this reason enough to terminate parental rights. When a child is removed from a home, the court does everything in their power to reconcile the family relationship. However, if the parent’s mental illness is severe, the reunification attempt may prove fruitless.

Arizona Family Reunification

Reunification of families is undertaken by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. They create a plan and conduct background checks on all adults in the household. If reunification is successful, the organization will continue to monitor the situation to help avoid the child being separated from the parent again.

Alimony and Mental Health

Alimony is given to a spouse who can not afford to support themselves after a divorce. These benefits are given to spouses who are unemployed, suffer from a mental illness, or who qualify for disability. If the spouse’s mental illness does not qualify them for disability, the court can decide if the other spouse needs to financially support the mentally disabled spouse.

Mental Illness and Incapacitation

In cases where a spouse is incapacitated due to a mental illness, the court can appoint a guardian to represent them. This guardian has the same kind of duties and rights that a guardian would have over a child. If a divorce is proceeding, the guardian has the right to request alimony on behalf of the incapacitated spouse.

Getting a Divorce in Arizona

If you’re considering pursuing a divorce in Arizona due, you must have lived in the state for at least 90 days. You will also need to file a petition for the divorce with the Clerk of the Superior Court. If you’re dealing with a spouse with mental illness, the divorce can be more complex. This is the time to consult an attorney. The team at The Sampair Group can help you with this. Contact us today at 623-777-3926.