Divorcing a Spouse with a Mental Illness

Going through a divorce is an inherently difficult process and the mental health of anyone involved is always a concern. However, divorce proceedings may be further complicated if a spouse has a diagnosed mental illness and it is important to understand how this may impact the case. Working with a compassionate divorce lawyer could help you understand all the factors that might impact the dissolution of your marriage, including the mental health of your ex-partner.

Mental Illnesses as Grounds for Divorce

In New Jersey, the fault-based grounds for divorce include adultery, desertion, deviant sexual conduct, extreme cruelty, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment, separation, voluntary addiction to narcotic drugs, and institutionalization for mental illness. In order for institutionalization to be viable grounds for divorce, the spouse must have been in an institution for 24 consecutive months during the marriage and before the divorce was filed. This requirement means that if mental health is to play a role in the divorce, there must be a diagnosis indicating that the mental illness is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

Mental Illness and Annulment

By asking for an annulment, one is requesting the court to declare that a marriage is void as it should not have occurred in the first place. The grounds for annulment in New Jersey is that one of the spouses was not in the right mental state to voluntarily consent to the marriage due to a preexisting mental illness. This assumes that the incapacitated spouse’s mental state was so impaired at the time of the marriage that they did not understand the occasion or its significance.

Impacts of Mental Illnesses on Divorce Proceedings

Mental illnesses impact divorce proceedings in a variety of ways. Once a divorce complaint grounded on mental illness has been filed, the court will take action to ensure that the spouse and children are safe, assets are protected, and a plan is established for the treatment of the children if they are involved.

Parental Rights and Custody

In divorce proceedings, the court may make decisions based upon what they believe to be in the children’s best interest. If the court determines a parent to be unfit to meet their parental duties due to their mental illness, it may terminate the parent’s rights or require visitations to be supervised.

Alimony and Property Distribution

A spouse’s mental illness will be taken into account by the court when splitting a marital estate as well as deciding whether or not to award them alimony. Courts may award a mentally ill spouse additional alimony or a larger share of the marital estate if their mental illness prohibits them from working and earning their own income.

Doubts of Credibility

If a court doubts the credibility of a mentally ill spouse and finds them unable to make rational decisions, they may appoint a guardian to the person to assist them in making decisions. Additionally, if a spouse’s mental illness creates a risk of assets being dissipated, the court may freeze accounts or limit their access to funds.

Let an Attorney Help You Handle Divorce

When your spouse suffers from a mental illness, it could make a divorce even more contentious and stressful. Let our knowledgeable divorce lawyers here at Moskowitz Law Group LLC help you through the process, every step of the way. You should not have to handle a divorce on your own, let alone the complications mental illness may bring, so speak with an attorney for help today.

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