Ending a marriage is never easy. However, divorcing someone with a mental illness can present its own unique challenges. Divorcing a spouse with a mental illness can affect the way you interact with them throughout the process and the ultimate outcome of your case. So before getting started, it’s important to know what to expect.
You may have questions if you are considering ending your marriage to a mentally ill spouse. If so, the family law attorneys at Charlotte Christian Law are here to help.
Understanding the Connection Between Divorce and Mental Illness
Mental illnesses can vary in severity and can affect nearly every facet of an individual—from their behavior to their emotions and cognitive well-being. According to one study examining the connection between mental disorders and marital dissolution, individuals with common mental illnesses are at a greater risk of divorce.
Common mental disorders that were studied and cited as contributing factors toward marital dissolution included the following:
- Bipolar disorder,
- Major depressive disorder,
- Generalized anxiety disorder,
- Panic disorder,
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and
- Drug or alcohol dependence.
Of course, mental illness cannot be prevented or easily controlled. Nevertheless, the fact remains that when one spouse has a mental illness, it can significantly impact their marriage.
Is Mental Illness a Ground for Divorce in Alabama?
In short, no. Mental illness is not one of the specifically enumerated grounds for divorce in Alabama. That said, in cases involving mental illness, there are a number of grounds for divorce that the parties may pursue.
For example, Alabama Code § 30-2-1 permits for-cause divorce where:
- One or both spouses become addicted to habitual drunkenness or to habitual use of drugs;
- There is a complete incompatibility of temperament between the parties such that they can no longer live together;
- One spouse has been confined to a mental institution for a period of five successive years or more;
- The court finds that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and that further attempts at reconciliation would be impractical, futile, or not in the best interests of the parties and their family; or
- One spouse has committed actual violence against the other or placed them in reasonable apprehension of such violence.
In each scenario, you can use proof of a mental illness to help support your claims that a divorce is appropriate.
Impacts of Mental Illness on Divorce in Alabama
The existence of a mental illness can impact an Alabama divorce in a variety of ways. Below are some examples to be aware of before you proceed with divorcing a mentally ill spouse.
Child Custody Considerations
One of the significant ways in which mental illness can impact a divorce pertains to child custody. When making child custody decisions, the court’s primary consideration is the child’s best interests. Courts will typically weigh various factors to determine what is in the child’s best interest. However, when a parent has a mental illness, the court may also consider factors such as:
- The parent’s mental fitness generally;
- The type and severity of the particular mental disorder(s);
- Each parent’s ability to provide a safe and stable environment for the child;
- Each parent’s capacity to care for the child’s needs; and
- The potential impact of mental illness on the child’s overall well-being.
Do you have reason to believe that your spouse’s mental illness could negatively impact your child and their well-being? If so, speak with an attorney today to discuss whether and to what extent this might lead to limited custody and visitation rights.
Property Division and Spousal Support
Generally speaking, Alabama is an equitable distribution state regarding divorce. The marital estate is subject to “equitable” or fair division and distribution when a couple separates. However, a fair distribution does not always equal an even split of assets. Rather, the court will order the distribution of property fairly and equitably, taking into account the financial resources, earning capacity, and a host of other factors.
Some factors include mental illness or misconduct. For instance, if a divorce is granted due to the misconduct of Spouse A, the judge has the discretion to make an allowance or provide more of the marital assets to Spouse B. Likewise, if one spouse has a relatively low salary and earning capacity or requires ongoing treatment or support due to mental illness, the court may consider these factors when dividing the marital estate. In other words, a judge could grant more assets or ongoing spousal support to help the mentally ill spouse who cannot care for themselves.
Protect Yourself and Your Family’s Interests
Going through a divorce when your spouse has a mental illness can be a long, arduous, and emotionally draining process. Nevertheless, starting the process may ultimately be what’s best for your life.
At Charlotte Christian Law, we are dedicated to helping our clients as they work toward building the life they deserve. Call (256) 859-7277 or fill out our consultation form to discuss your case and start your path toward a stronger and more resilient life today.