When you have a spouse with mental illness, divorce may pose some additional challenges that deserve close attention. But if you act with both intention and compassion, you can get through this difficult period without undue distress.
Ending a relationship is rarely simple or easy. When one of the people involved has been experiencing physical or mental health concerns, the process may become significantly more difficult.
The Emotional Impact of Divorcing a Spouse with Mental Illness
Divorce is painful. Regardless of how long you’ve been with your spouse or what types of problems you’ve had, acknowledging that your marriage needs to end can be a heart-wrenching experience.
If your spouse has a mental illness, divorce may be a particularly emotional time for you both. Your spouse may be frightened or feel that they are being abandoned. You may be struggling with guilt, fear, frustration, or anger.
It’s important to remember that feelings – even upsetting ones – can be natural, healthy, and even productive. It is equally important to remember that you both need to find appropriate ways to manage your emotions and process your feelings.
Self-defeating behaviors or attempts to “punish” each other can turn a difficult experience into a devastating one.
Legal Concerns When Divorcing a Spouse Who Has a Mental Illness
In general terms, your spouse’s mental health status should not affect your divorce. However, there are a few areas where this may be relevant.
For example, if you and your spouse have children together, your spouse’s ability to provide a safe environment and meet your children’s needs could impact decisions about which of you should be granted custody.
If your spouse’s mental health symptoms are severe enough to inhibit their ability to fully understand and participate in divorce proceedings, the judge may appoint a person (sometimes referred to as a “guardian ad litem”) to represent them and protect their rights.
In the United States, divorce laws can vary from state to state. Laws regarding divorce may also be very different from one country to the next. If you have any questions about any aspect of your divorce, the best step for you to take is to contact your attorney or consult with another professional who is well-versed in the divorce laws of the jurisdiction where your case is taking place.
Of course, legal concerns aren’t the only significant topics to address when you are getting a divorce from someone who has a mental illness. The quality of your relationship, the status of both your spouse’s mental health and yours, and the ability of you both to care for your children are among the many other factors that may merit your time and attention.
Addressing Your Spouse’s Mental Health Needs During Divorce
If your marriage is ending in divorce, there have clearly been difficulties between you and your spouse. Determining how best to address your spouse’s mental health needs during the divorce process will depend on how deeply fractured your relationship has become.
In some cases, by the time people get to the stage when divorce proceedings are in process, they are not even on speaking terms with their soon-to-be former spouse. In other cases, partners who mutually agree to go their separate ways are able to communicate effectively and respectfully with each other throughout the divorce process.
If you have remained on good terms with your spouse, please continue to support their efforts to maintain and improve their mental health. This may involve addressing insurance coverage or other financial matters in your divorce negotiations.
At the very least, you should be aware of the ways that your spouse’s mental health symptoms may impact them on a day-to-day basis, so that they can participate in all relevant meetings, appointments, and discussions to the best of their ability.
For example, if your spouse has developed a substance use disorder, or if they have struggled with substance abuse as an effect of another mental health concern, it is extremely important to ensure that they are not under the influence of alcohol or other drugs when you are talking about your relationship. This includes both legal meetings and personal conversations.
Seeking Mental Health Support for Yourself During Divorce
Whether you realize it or not, you have been impacted by your spouse’s mental health struggles.
If you haven’t already been seeing a therapist or counselor, you may want to consider doing so now. Even if your divorce is amicable and you’ve done all you can to prepare, significant life changes like this can have a powerful impact on your mental health. Being able to process your experiences in the company of a professional can prevent minor setbacks from becoming big problems.
Therapists and counselors aren’t the only effective sources of support, of course. Depending on your religious beliefs, you may be more amenable to speaking with a priest, rabbi, imam, minister, or other spiritual advisor. Or, you may prefer to participate in a local support group if one is offered near you.
What’s most important is finding an environment where you feel comfortable discussing your emotions and experiences, and where you can get meaningful feedback and guidance.
Find Mental Health Treatment in Atlanta, GA
If you, your spouse or partner, or another significant person in your life has been experiencing the symptoms of a mental health disorder, please know that help is available and treatment works. When you get the right type and level of care, your life can improve significantly. Peachtree Wellness Solutions is a premier provider of quality mental health services for adults in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. Visit our admissions page or contact us today to learn more about our programs and services.