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....
Couples decide to divorce for a variety of reasons, though finances and the stresses of parenthood are often at the top of the list. However, one factor that greatly increases the likelihood a marriage will end is alcohol or other forms of substance abuse.
Forming and maintaining intimate relationships with spouses and children when judgment is routinely impaired, and priorities are more often focused on finding the next drink, is almost impossible. This behavior can leave other family members feeling unsupported and neglected. Moreover, these issues can be of particular importance if the addicted spouse is entitled to ask for parenting time in a divorce.
The safety and security of minor children is a general societal concern, and both the Courts and state agencies have a vested interest in protecting children from possible harm due to a parent’s alcoholic tendencies. One woman, who was recently arrested in the Chicago area for drunk driving and dubbed “one of the worst DUI offenders in the U.S.,” lost custody of her 11 children due to past behavior and the number of convictions and outstanding warrants on her record. Alcoholism can cause a huge disruption in a person’s life, and this does not end when a divorce case is filed....