Can My Spouse’s Mental Health Affect My Divorce?

Can My Spouse’s Mental Health Affect My Divorce?Your spouse’s mental health cannot keep you from successfully getting a divorce, but it can make things more complicated. Depending on the type and severity of the mental health condition from which your spouse is suffering, it can drastically change the approach of your divorce legal proceedings, as well as the results involving decisions about child custody, property division, child support, alimony, and many other issues.

Therefore, if you are thinking about divorcing your spouse who has diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health issues, you should know and be aware that this could impact how long the process takes, as well as several other important factors that are discussed during a divorce.

Is mental health illness a common reason for divorces in San Antonio?

Almost certainly yes, but there’s no way to quantify it. Addiction, substance abuse, personality disorders, anxiety, schizophrenia: all of these fall under the umbrella of “mental health disorders.” Furthermore, couples can divorce under grounds of insupportability (AKA, no-fault) even if one of them does have a diagnosed mental health condition.

In short, there’s no way to know how often mental health plays a role in divorce in San Antonio. Here is what we do know:

  1. Approximately one in five adult Americans, or just about 58 million Americans, live with a mental health issue. Of the approximately 30 million people who live in Texas, about 75% are at least 18 years or older. If the averages for the nation are the same in Texas, that means about 4.5 million adults in the Lonestar State suffer some kind of mental health condition or issue.
  2. Texas’ jails are the second-leading provider of mental health services in the state. Texas provides grounds for divorce based on felony conviction, living apart, and cruelty, all of which may or may not be the result of mental health conditions.
  3. Analysis by BMJ in 2015 found the risk of divorce “was significantly higher in couples with one mentally distressed partner than in couples with no mental distress in all analyses. There was also a significant interaction effect showing that the hazard of divorce for couples with two mentally distressed partners was higher than for couples with one mentally distressed partner.” So we know that having a mental health disorder is more likely to lead to a divorce in general, based on this analysis.

However, based on our own experience as San Antonio family law attorneys, we can say that our clients often discuss the spouses’ mental health in their consultations with us. Often, this is part of a larger conversation about their spouse’s behaviors toward themselves or their children, or how those behaviors have affected their marriages. Substance abuse disorders, for example, can lead to physical violence, reckless spending, criminal charges, or other behaviors that lead one spouse to decide to leave the marriage.

How do mental health conditions affect the divorce process?

When you are navigating the divorce process with a spouse who has a mental illness, you may face additional challenges that other couples do not. (Every case is unique and different, so not all divorce cases involving a mental health condition will experience the same results or outcomes.) However, it is important to meet with a San Antonio divorce attorney to begin going over the facts of your case and letting them know about your spouse’s conditions. Here are a few different ways that mental health conditions may affect your divorce:

  • Child custody: Mental illness can significantly impact the decisions surrounding child custody. For example, if you or your spouse has a mental health condition, the judge will take this into consideration when deciding who is the best choice for the child to live with the majority of the time. According to Texas Family Code 153.002, “the best interest of the child shall always be the primary consideration in determining issues of conservatorship and possession of and access to the child.” The court will determine which parent is the better fit to take care of the child, which means that mental health will be a deciding factor. Mental health experts may be hired to give their opinion involving the parent with mental health illnesses and their access to custody or visitations.
  • Property division: Texas is a community property state, which means that the courts believe that all property obtained during a marriage is considered to be property of both spouses. Therefore, Texas residents who are going through a divorce will quickly realize that everything they bought, received, or earned throughout the years of their marriage likely belongs to both them and their spouse. However, depending on how severe the mental illness is, the court may decide that certain pieces of property and assets are better off with the spouse who does not have any mental health conditions.
  • Spousal maintenance: Spousal maintenance is another factor that will be decided based on the spouse’s mental illness. For example, mental illnesses can affect an individual’s ability to financially support themselves after a divorce. Therefore, if they were receiving excellent medical care that they will no longer receive once your payments stop, this will be taken into consideration because it could cause several hardships and a diminished quality of life for the individual. As a result, the spouse with mental illness could be awarded spousal maintenance to allow them to maintain the same standard of living and care that they were receiving during the marriage. As a matter of fact, Texas Family Code 8.501(2)(A) states that the spouse may be eligible for spousal support if they are unable to make a reasonable income due to a physical or mental impairment.
  • Child support: The courts in Texas will also weigh an individual’s mental health when deciding about child support. The reason for this is because if a person has a history of being financially dependent on their spouse or is unable to find employment or work due to their mental illness, this can affect their ability to pay child support.

At Grable Grimshaw PLLC, we have handled many divorce cases involving mental illness, and we can prepare you for what to expect going forward in the legal process.

Common mental health conditions that impact the divorce process

From mild to severe, there are many different mental health conditions that can impact the divorce process. The following are a few examples:

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Paranoid Personality Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Multiple Personality Disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder

Divorce cases involving mental health conditions can be stressful and overwhelming to navigate alone. Working with a San Antonio divorce lawyer from Grable Grimshaw, PLLC can help. We will listen to your experience, gather information and evidence, hire expert witnesses, and ensure that the judge is aware of the problems and issues going on within your marriage. Please call our office or submit our contact form to schedule your initial consultation to start going over your rights, custody arrangements, and financial interests today.