Navigating divorce when your spouse has a mental illness

Legal strategies and considerations

Mental illness refers to a wide range of mental health conditions that affect mood, thinking, and behavior. Examples include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and addictive behaviors. The presence of a mental illness can significantly impact both the dynamics of the divorce process and the legal strategies employed.

At Select Law Partners PLLC, we provide empathetic guidance to ensure your rights are protected while also considering the well-being of your partner dealing with mental health issues. Please contact our Fairfax divorce lawyers at (855) 541-4867 today.

spouse with mental illness divorce

Legal considerations regarding mental illness and divorce

Grounds for divorce

In Virginia, mental illness can influence the grounds for divorce in different ways. According to Virginia Code § 20-91, divorce can be filed on fault and no-fault grounds.

Specific grounds related to mental illness include incurable insanity, recognized under Virginia law. The statute requires that the spouse has been confined in a mental institution for at least three consecutive years before filing for divorce.

Competency and legal capacity

One of the major legal issues in divorcing a spouse with mental illness is their legal capacity to participate in the divorce proceedings. Suppose a spouse is unable to make decisions or understand the proceedings due to mental illness. In that case, the court may require a guardian ad litem or a legal guardian to represent their interests.

Navigating the divorce process

1. Professional support and representation

Engage with experienced family law attorneys who understand the complexities of divorcing someone with mental illness. At Select Law Partners PLLC, our team is prepared to handle sensitive situations with the utmost care and legal expertise.

2. Handling custody and visitation

When children are involved, the situation becomes more complicated. The court always prioritizes the best interests of the child, which includes considering the mental health of both parents. Virginia Code § 20-124.3 guides how courts determine custody and visitation, noting that the mental health of the parents plays a significant role in these decisions.

3. Dealing with financial issues

Spousal support might be particularly contentious if one spouse is unable to work due to mental illness. The court will consider the circumstances, including each spouse’s financial resources, needs, and ability to pay. Given the mental health context, it’s important to discuss how you might address alimony, division of marital assets, and debt responsibility.

4. Protective orders

If the mental illness leads to violent behavior or threats, it might be necessary to seek a protective order. These orders are designed to ensure safety and can be tailored to address specific threats or types of contact.

Self-care and support

Navigating a divorce under these circumstances can be draining. It’s a good idea to seek support, possibly from therapists or support groups that specialize in helping individuals through divorce. Professional therapists or mediators can also assist in facilitating discussions, especially when negotiating aspects of the divorce agreement.

We’re here to be your supporters and advocates

At Select Law Partners PLLC, we are committed to providing our clients compassionate and competent legal representation throughout their divorce proceedings. You can manage the process more effectively with the right support and guidance.

For detailed guidance tailored to your specific circumstances, contact Select Law Partners PLLC to schedule a consultation. We will help you understand your legal options and support you every step of the way in navigating this challenging time.

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Ryan Moran-Asalone

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