The state of an individual’s mentality can have a big impact on their life. Mental illness affects one’s outlook, motivation, and behavior. When a spouse suffers from a severe mental illness, their behavior may lead to the downfall of a relationship. Believing that a spouse’s actions are a manifestation of mental illness may be difficult. Spouses should note that their partner’s mental illness may affect divorce proceedings and alimony.

Mental Illness in the United States

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 46.6 million Americans suffer from a mental illness each year. Similarly, 11.2 million Americans suffer from a severe mental illness. Mental illness is an impairment with a range of severity. There are mild types of mental illness, such as mild depression. There are also severe types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia. A mental illness is considered severe when it inhibits important activities. How a divorce is handled is dependent on the severity of one’s mental illness.

If an individual believes that their spouse’s mental illness contributed to the reason for their divorce, it is important to bring it to the attention of the court. Doing so gives the court an opportunity to protect and psychologically assist children that may be involved. It may also help a spouse secure assets accumulated during the marriage.

How Mental Illness Affects Divorce

Mental illnesses tend to affect how divorce proceedings are handled. For example, an individual with a mentally ill partner may be required to financially support their spouse after a divorce. This may occur if one’s mental illness prevents them from obtaining a job, if they require treatment, or if they are institutionalized. This typically is required for spouses suffering with a severe mental illness. Spouses should note that a judge will decide the appropriate amount of alimony based on several factors, including the spouse’s needs, their ability to financially support themselves, and the paying spouse’s income.

The timeline of proceedings may differ for those with a mentally ill spouse. With a particularly troubled partner, hospitalizations may affect the length of divorce proceedings. In special circumstances, an individual may be elected to represent the mentally ill spouse. This individual, called a conservator, is responsible for making decisions in the best interest of the ill spouse. If a spouse’s mental illness prevents them from comprehending their own financial status, health care, or other important information, a conservator may be useful.