Mental Health Issues and Divorce

April 1, 2021

We live in troubled times, and mental health issues are not uncommon. Mental illness impacts not only the afflicted person but also their families, friends, and loved ones. This is why mental health issues and divorce are so closely intertwined. If you are dealing with a spouse who suffers from a mental health concern and are leaning toward divorce, the compassionate family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group in Colorado have the experience to help. We understand that this is a stressful time, and welcome the opportunity to help you through this difficult time. Do not hesitate to text us at (720) 730-4558 or to call us at (720) 463-4333 for more information today.

Mental Illness Is Common

Unfortunately, there is a real stigma associated with mental illness that leaves many people prone to sweeping the matter under the rug. Doing so, however, can make the matter that much more difficult to address and can leave a person without help. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) shares all the following statistics related to exactly how common mental illness is:

  • Every year, one in five adults in the U.S. experience some kind of mental illness.
  • Every year, 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. experiences a form of serious mental illness.
  • In 2019, 9.5 million adults in the U.S. experienced a substance abuse disorder that was concurrent with a mental illness.

In other words, if your spouse is suffering from a mental health issue, you are far from alone.

The Emotional Challenges

While divorce is always complicated – and emotionally challenging – if your spouse suffers from mental illness, your divorce may prove even more complex. The fact is that living with someone with undiagnosed and/or untreated mental health issues and divorce often goes hand in hand. If you have come to the very difficult decision that you need to divorce your mentally ill spouse, it is only normal to experience heightened emotional challenges that can include:

  • Feelings of immense guilt
  • Feelings of immense loss
  • Immense concern about your spouse’s future
  • Immense concern about your spouse’s ongoing relationship with your shared children

These can all be tough, but it is also important to focus on the bigger picture, which is that you are moving toward divorce for important reasons. Do not forget to take care of yourself during these very difficult times. Additionally, if you ever feel that your safety, or the safety of your children is in danger due to your spouse’s mental illness, immediately contact law enforcement or a domestic abuse hotline to help ensure your safety.

The Effects of Mental Illness on Your Marriage

An important tool for helping to combat the emotional challenges associated with divorcing a spouse who has mental health issues is recognizing how destructive a mental illness that is left unchecked can be to you and your children. While every mental health issue manifests in its own unique ways, some of the most common consequences include the following:

  • A spouse who has difficulty holding a job or of holding a job in which he or she earns at full capacity
  • A spouse who is emotionally and/or physically abusive
  • A spouse who is unfaithful to the marriage
  • A spouse who is overly reliant upon the other
  • A spouse who is financially irresponsible or reckless

Any one of these can obviously put a serious strain on your marriage and can be a serious burden for you to bear.

Divorce Issues that Can Be Affected by Mental Illness

If you are facing a divorce, you and your divorcing spouse will need to reach mutually acceptable terms on all of the following matters:

  • The equitable (or fair) division of your marital property
  • Your child custody arrangements (called parental responsibilities in Colorado)
  • Child support amounts
  • Alimony amounts (called spousal support in Colorado)

If your divorcing spouse suffers from mental health issues, it can make negotiations that much more difficult – if not downright impossible. In such a situation, you are much more likely to need the court to hand down divorce terms on your behalf. Colorado is what is known as a no-fault divorce state, which means that fault – such as your spouse’s adultery or emotional abuse – will not factor into the court’s decisions regarding your divorce terms. The fact of your spouse’s mental health issues, however, can feasibly affect the terms of your divorce in other ways listed below.

The Division of Your Marital Property

The equitable division of your marital property refers to a division that is fair given the circumstances involved, and your spouse’s mental health concerns are part of this equation. If your spouse’s mental health status interferes with his or her financial situation, it is possible that it could affect the equitable division of your marital property.

Parental Responsibilities

When the court makes critical decisions about whom the children will live with post-divorce and what visitation schedules will be implemented, it always takes the children’s best interests into careful consideration. If your divorcing spouse is experiencing mental health concerns that could affect his or her ability to provide the children with the care and support they need, it can absolutely affect your child custody arrangements. The court may implement a limited visitation schedule that allows the children to continue seeing their other parent without putting undue stress on his or her mental health – or jeopardizing their safety in any way.

Alimony

Alimony is intended to help rectify any financial imbalance created by divorce. This means that if one spouse will experience a financial downturn and the other has the ability to help, alimony may be ordered. If your divorcing spouse’s mental health issues affect his or her ability to earn, they might also move the judge to order alimony.

Child Support

Child support is the state’s way of ensuring that both parents continue to support their children financially post-divorce, including parents with mental health issues. If your ex’s ability to make a living is severely affected by his or her mental health status, it can conceivably affect the amount of child support payments he or she is ordered to make.

Consult with an Experienced Colorado Family Law Attorney Today

If you are in a situation that involves mental health issues and divorce, you are facing a difficult path forward, but the skilled Colorado family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group have the experience, drive, and compassion to help. To learn more, please do not wait to text us at (720) 730-4558 or to call us as at (720) 463-4333 today.

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