Deciding to take the final step to end a relationship is never an easy decision, but divorce can become much more complex when one spouse has issues with a psychological condition that compromises his or her capacity. Mental illnesses and cognitive conditions are challenging to recognize and adequately address, and staying in a marriage with a person experiencing these issues may not be advisable if issues of safety and emotional stability are an issue for either spouse.
Divorce requires making a number of significant and binding decisions, and the presence of mental illness or cognitive dysfunction can greatly alter how these decisions are handled, as well as how the impaired spouse may respond to divorce as a whole. The overarching influence of mental illness in some divorces is rarely discussed, primarily due to the stigma associated with mental illness in this country generally. However, mental health issues can take many forms, from alcohol abuse to bipolar disorder, and these issues can affect a relationship in a wide variety of ways. Mental illness will touch more couples than is generally recognized, and it can affect divorce proceedings in the following ways:
Grounds for Divorce
A number of states include a provision in the law that authorizes a divorce if mental incapacity of a spouse is established; however, Illinois is not one of them. Until 2016, Illinois retained a divorce system that was primarily fault-based, and one possible grounds for divorce was drug and alcohol addiction, conditions that are known to alter the abuser’s mental state at least temporarily, and sometimes permanently. Qualified no-fault divorce did exist, but it required lengthy separation and other requirements that could be burdensome to satisfy....
Divorce is an emotional process that can sometimes bring out negative aspects of a person's personality. However, these behaviors are momentary lapses. When one spouse has a mental health issue, what is already a difficult process becomes exponentially more complicated.
Marriage to someone with mental health issues that manifest as erratic behavior, severe mood shifts and the potential to harm him/herself or others can quickly become overwhelming.
A study conducted in 2011 looked at the impact of mental health disorders on the rate of marriage and divorce found that these issues increased the likelihood of divorce from 20 to 80 percent, varying by the type and degree of disorder present. Mental health issues often result in high conflict relationships that are hard to endure long-term. If a couple shares children, the implications of mental health disorders on a spouse's ability to parent effectively and safely become a major concern that Courts do carefully consider....