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How Mental Illness Affects Divorce


Mental illness can impact a divorce in many ways, and it can have a significant impact on child custody. From the division of marital assets to visitation schedules, judges are taking mental health issues into account when making major decisions in divorce cases.

Splitting Marital Assets

When dividing marital assets, the spouse's mental health may affect the judge's decision.

"Mental illness issues may impact the division of marital assets," says The Law Offices of Roger W. Stelk. "In some cases, the judge might make an adjustment to the split depending on each spouse's health, employability, and income sources."

If the mentally ill spouse has a limited capacity to work, he or she may be awarded a larger share of the marital assets.

Spousal Maintenance

Mental health issues can have a significant impact on spousal maintenance, particularly if a child lives with the mentally ill spouse.

There are several factors that impact spousal maintenance, but some will hold more weight in cases involving mental illness, such as:

  • The spouse's inability to be self-sufficient through employment.
  • The age, earning ability, employment history, and physical and emotional condition of the spouse.
  • The comparative financial resources of both spouses.
  • The spouse's financial resources, including marital property.

Although mental illness is common, it can sometimes be debilitating to the point where the individual is unable to be self-sufficient through employment. Mental illness may make it difficult or impossible for some individuals to hold down a job.

The spouse's mental condition may also impact his or her earning ability. Many people battling mental health conditions are high earners and are able to physically and financially support themselves. However, there are more serious cases where sufferers are unable to maintain employment and support themselves. In these cases, support may be awarded.

The individual's ability to earn a living will naturally play an important role in the decision to award spousal maintenance. Any condition that will impact the spouse's ability to earn will be considered.

Child Custody Proceedings

Custody proceedings are also impacted when one spouse suffers from mental illness. The court will always make decisions with the child's best interests in mind.

One of the primary concerns is the spouse's ability to make decisions and exercise parenting time. While mental illness can impact a person's parenting ability, a simple diagnosis does not mean that the parent does not have the ability to parent.

The court will take into account the mental and physical health of all parties involved as well as the past, present and potential future relationship between the child and parents.

Mental health issues can affect relationships, including those with their own children. The court will consider the extent, if any, the illness is impacting the relationship with the child. In many cases, the illness will have no impact.

The court may also be concerned about the mental and physical well-being of the child, particularly if mental illness impacts the parent's ability to adequately care for the child. The court must do whatever is in the best interest of the child.

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