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What to know about mental health issues & divorce?

Coping with a spouse with a mental illness can be challenging. Some couples may even contemplate ending the marriage due to the overwhelming impact of their partner’s condition. Spouses of those with severe mental health issues are often the victims of their partner’s illness as they face blowback such as abuse, impulsiveness, financial mismanagement, substance abuse, and sometimes infidelity. These blowbacks can be too much to tolerate, resulting in spouses wondering whether their spouse’s mental illness is grounds for divorce. Please continue reading to learn whether your spouse’s mental health issues will prevent you from obtaining a divorce, and discover how a compassionate Ocean County Divorce Attorney can help you understand your legal options.

Will my spouse’s mental health condition prevent me from obtaining a divorce?

When filing for divorce, as the petitioner, you must state the reason for the marriage’s breakdown, otherwise known as the grounds for divorce. In New Jersey, you can pursue a no-fault or fault-based divorce. If you decide to undertake a no-fault divorce, you do not have to prove the cause of the dissolution of marriage as you can plead that irreconcilable differences led to the breakdown of the marriage. However, if you seek a divorce from your spouse on fault grounds, you must cite one of the fault grounds recognized by New Jersey and prove the grounds caused the marriage’s breakdown.

In New Jersey, despite it not being considered misconduct, you can cite mental illness, otherwise referred to as incurable insanity, as the grounds for divorce. However, your spouse’s mental illness must have required them to be institutionalized for at least two consecutive years before filing for divorce. In some cases, you may even cite extreme cruelty if you can prove that their mental illness caused them to endure physical or emotional abuse, which has endangered their health and safety. Therefore, your spouse’s mental health issues will not prevent you from obtaining a divorce. Nonetheless, it is critical to note that their condition will likely slow down the process and directly impact the outcome of support, custody, and property division determinations.

How will their condition affect divorce orders?

In New Jersey, the court’s primary concern when determining a child custody order is the child’s best interests. That said, while a parent’s mental illness will not automatically preclude them from being granted custody, they will not receive custody if their condition endangers the child’s health and safety. Mental health issues can also hamper an individual’s ability to support themselves and their family. In such cases, the judge will likely order additional maintenance or award a greater share of the couple’s marital assets. It is also imperative to note that regardless of mental illness, parents are legally obligated to support their children financially. Therefore, the spouse granted custody of the children may be awarded a greater share of marital property to cover child support costs.

Divorcing a spouse with mental health issues can be difficult, as you may feel guilty. However, after exhausting all your options, you may be left with no choice. Don’t navigate this difficult time alone. Contact a determined attorney from the Law Office of Sarina Gianna, LLC, who can help you navigate this complex legal process.