How Mental Illness Affects Divorce

If you’ve struggled with a mental illness and are going through a divorce, the stigma that can accompany this personal trial can be frustrating and nerve-wracking; the fear of being criticized or withheld the same opportunities as others may be at the forefront of your mind. Many people undefinedwonder how their mental illness will affect the outcome of their divorce, or if it will have any negative implications at all. While it’s true that mental illness can certainly complicate a divorce, it may not be as pivotal as you fear—depending, of course, on the severity of your mental illness, as well as your pro-activity in confronting and treating your symptoms.

                Some mental illnesses have little to no effect on how a divorce will proceed, especially if the person has learned practical ways to manage their condition. The looming stigma associated with mental illness has drastically receded over the years as people have started to vocalize and normalize their struggles, and judges are more likely to be sympathetic towards the ill party. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the ill party will be favored, but there isn’t a need to try to hide the issue. For this reason, you should always disclose your mental illness to your attorney.


                There are a couple of different ways in which mental illness can affect monetary aspect of divorce. On one hand, if a mental illness is causing a spouse to approach divorce with volatility or is inhibiting them from being able to compromise and reason, it will be difficult to reach amicable agreements. Inevitably, this will elongate and complicate the divorce process, which in turn will result in inflated legal bills. Additionally, if a person’s mental illness is severe enough that it thwarts their ability to financially provide for themselves, the opposing party may be required to support them with alimony or a larger share of assets.

Child Custody

                Mental illness will likely be more heavily analyzed in the process of determining child custody arrangements. Custody rights are determined based on what is in the best interest of the child. It is generally only in extreme cases, when a parent can be proved to be unfit, that a mental illness would result in losing legal custody. While most judges will advocate for a custody and parenting plan that allows both parents to have an active role in the child’s life, they will consider any distressing behavioral issues that might jeopardize the child’s safety or sense of stability.

                The diagnosis of a mental illness, just like any other ailment, is not something that can be controlled. A person can, however, choose to take any steps possible to confront and treat deleterious symptoms that may be inhibiting them from being the best spouse, parent or person they can be. Thus, if you are struggling with mental illness, it is important to be diagnosed professionally and take any prescribed medications.  Doing so will only help your case as you proceed through a divorce or child custody battle. It is also important to fully disclose this diagnosis with your attorney, whether your spouse is aware of the affliction or not.

                 Mental illness and divorce can be complicated, and there are a lot of variables, so don’t do it alone. The attorneys at Pacific Cascade Legal are well equipped to professionally guide their clients through the emotional and legal complexities of divorce, and will ensure your needs and desires are represented suitably.