Divorcing a Spouse With a Mental Illness
Divorces can be challenging for all spouses; however, the situation can get more challenging when one spouse has a mental illness. When one spouse has a mental illness, the emotional toll can be overwhelming. Also, divorce-related matters may be impacted if one spouse has a mental health condition. Likewise, the divorce process can exasperate mental health problems.
Mental illness is quite common in the United States of America, and so cases where a divorce involves one spouse with a mental illness are not uncommon. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that over one in five adults in the U.S. has a mental illness. In 2021, it was believed that 57.8 million people in the U.S. had mental illnesses. Examples of mental illnesses include PTSD, anxiety, depression, narcissistic personality disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder. Below, we discuss the emotional impacts of divorce on the mentally ill spouse and the other spouse. We also discuss how divorcing a spouse with a mental illness can affect divorce-related decisions.
Emotional Impact of Divorce on the Mentally Ill Spouse and the Other Spouse
Divorce can intensify the symptoms of the spouse with a mental illness. For example, if a spouse suffers from anxiety, divorce can intensify anxiety symptoms, such as nervousness, worry, and fear. A spouse suffering from depression may, for example, experience increased feelings of sadness, hopelessness, agitation, and guilt.
Alternatively, the other spouse, may feel guilt and worry when proceeding with a divorce. For instance, a spouse may feel guilty about divorcing a mentally ill spouse or feel guilty for being unable to help the ill spouse. Regarding worry, a spouse may feel concerned about a mentally ill spouse’s well-being post-divorce as well.
How Divorcing a Spouse with a Mental Illness Can Affect Divorce-Related Decisions
If one spouse has a mental health condition, the condition can affect everything from timesharing to property division to alimony/support. Mental health plays a role in support, property division, and timesharing rulings.
In Florida, judges are required to consider several factors when making timesharing decisions. One of these factors is the mental and physical health of the parents. According to Florida Statute 61.13, other factors the court must consider when making time-sharing decisions include the following;
- The ability of each parent to act in the child’s best interest
- Each parent’s ability to provide stability
- Moral fitness of each parent
Under extreme circumstances, a mental health condition may result in a parent being limited in his or her unsupervised contact with a minor child or children. When considering timesharing and shared parental responsibility, the court will consider mental health issues in the context of a child or children’s best interest. Thus, it is very relevant to decisions regarding timesharing and parental responsibility.
A spouse’s mental illness is also relevant to support issues as well as possibility the equitable distribution of assets and liabilities. This is because a mentally ill spouse may not be physically able to adequately care for oneself.
It is crucial to note that a mental illness will not let a parent escape their child support obligations. Regardless of a parent’s mental health condition, he or she is legally obligated to financially support a child or children. Notwithstanding, some parents who are mentally ill do qualify for benefits such as social security disability benefits, which means any children of the parent will also receive a stipend. So, it is important to understand all aspects of every mental illness and any benefits that may be available to a parent or child.
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