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The Complexities of Divorce and Mental Illness

By Nottage and Ward on December 16, 2017

Divorce, even under the best of circumstances, can be a traumatic experience. You will face emotional stress and fears regarding your future security. If you have children, you will rightfully worry about the impact a divorce will have on them. But if your spouse is suffering from mental illness of any kind, then the complications can be even more damaging—and might even prove dangerous.

Mental Illness Is Relatively “New”

The state of Illinois has strict laws governing the divorce process, but these rules and regulations do not always adequately deal with mental illness. Especially as we are only recently coming to understand that many behaviors are symptoms of a clinical problem.

Mental illness always presents a challenge, both to the person who suffers from it, and to his or her loved ones. In many cases, a spouse may not even be aware that the other person is suffering from a disease until after they are married. They entered into marriage with great hope and expectations of a wonderful future, only to have those dreams ruined by unwanted mental illness.

What Counts as Mental Illness?

Examples of these problems that can put stress on a marriage include schizophrenia, sex addiction, gambling addiction, bipolar disorder, narcissism, and obsessive-compulsion disorder. No matter the particular diagnosis, mental illness almost always presents a challenge. A multinational study from the University of Groningen found that of the 18 disorders they looked at, all were a positive indicator of divorce, meaning that divorce was more likely for those suffering from one of the ailments.

How Will My Partner’s Illness Affect Our Divorce?

If you are contemplating a divorce and your partner has been diagnosed with mental illness, you probably have a lot of questions about how this might affect the proceedings. There is no definite legal answer, but it is clear that mental illness will complicate the process. In many cases, the reason for the divorce is directly tied to a spouse’s mental illness. This is especially true when suffering from some form of addiction.

In other cases, the mental illness of your partner could lead to dangerous, even violent behavior. If you fear for your safety, or the safety of your children, then it is critical that you take immediate action. The court will definitely take into account your spouse’s documented history of mental illness when making custody decisions, but at the same time, a mental disorder does not automatically disqualify your spouse from sharing custody or having visitation rights.

No matter your situation, if you are going through a divorce that has been impacted by mental illness, you need an advocate who can help protect you and your family. The Chicago divorce attorneys at Nottage and Ward, LLP, have practiced family law exclusively for the past three decades. We have the experience and resources to help you navigate the overwhelming and stressful divorce process and we will always keep the best interests of your family foremost in mind. Call us today at (312) 332-2915 to schedule a free consultation.

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