Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health show that about one in five people in the U.S. lives with a mental illness. And many of these people will go through a divorce at some point.
Mental illness alone does not dictate what happens in a divorce. However, if you or the person you are divorcing has a mental illness, it could influence the process and outcomes in many ways.
In child custody matters
Mental illness can dramatically impact child-related matters, particularly if the condition is severe and jeopardizes a child’s well-being.
For instance, when assessing what is in a child’s best interests, Nebraska courts will take into account:
- Whether a parent’s mental illness leads to frequent hospitalizations
- Whether a parent presents a threat to a child’s safety and welfare
- Whether a parent struggles with drug or alcohol abuse
- A parent’s capacity for providing a safe, loving environment for a child
- A history of abuse, neglect or violence
Under these circumstances, a parent may not be given the primary caretaker role. Rather, they may have supervised visitation or other limitations on their parenting time. The courts may also suspend parenting time until a parent undergoes a mental health evaluation.
In financial matters
A mental illness can also affect an individual’s financial behaviors and capacity for earning an income.
For example, someone’s condition could prevent them from supporting themselves after a divorce. Under these circumstances, the courts could order the other party to pay spousal support until the recipient can secure employment or financial assistance.
It may also be necessary to safeguard marital assets during the divorce if a person is irrational or irresponsible with finances.
Some possible solutions include freezing accounts, establishing a temporary support order or appointing a guardian over a mentally incapacitated party.
Method of dispute resolution
Depending on the type and severity of a mental illness, it could make a person impulsive, aggressive or manipulative. They may be more prone to lying or lashing out at people.
In these situations, dispute resolution methods like mediation may not be appropriate. Instead, cases may require litigation to get fair solutions to family legal matters.
Mental illness alone may not dictate the outcome of these matters. However, they can have a tremendous impact on them. Understanding this can help you manage your expectations and navigate a divorce with more clarity.