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Mental Health Issues and Divorce

How divorced fathers can address a spouse's substance abuse or mental illness

How Divorcing Dads Can Address Substance Abuse and Other Concerns

For most people, ending your marriage is going to be tough. The divorce process can be very complex, requiring you to address a multitude of issues related to your children, your finances, your living situation, and much more. Things can become even more complicated if your spouse has mental health issues or a history of substance abuse. In these cases, you need to understand the best strategies for achieving a positive outcome to your divorce, and you may need to take legal action to protect yourself and your family members from harm.

Addressing Mental Health Concerns

Mental illness can take many forms, ranging from mild depression or anxiety to serious conditions such as bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, or schizophrenia. These conditions are treatable, but if a person does not take the proper medications or refuses to work with mental health professionals to address these issues, their relationships with their spouse, children, and other family members and friends are likely to suffer. Even if a person does receive the proper treatment, the ongoing stress of dealing with mental health issues can lead to the breakdown of a marriage.

If you're getting a divorce from a spouse with a mental illness or an addiction, this won't necessarily mean that you're going to have a lot of conflict, but you should be prepared for some difficulty, especially if your spouse is a narcissist. Your ex may tell lies about you, try to provoke you into heated arguments both inside and outside of the courtroom, or even attempt to alienate your children against you. You should do your best to remain calm and act professionally throughout the divorce process, and be sure to keep a record of all communication. Emails, text messages, or voicemails could be used as evidence in court, if necessary.

Protecting Children

Determining how your ex's mental illness or substance abuse will affect your children will be one of the primary concerns during your divorce. The physical and mental health of parents is one issue that a judge will consider when making decisions about child custody and visitation, and you may want to request that a mental health evaluator, child custody evaluator, or guardian ad litem be appointed to investigate your case and offer recommendations about how to protect your children's best interests. If your spouse's mental health issues or abuse of drugs or alcohol would put your children at risk of harm, you may ask that her parenting time be restricted or supervised.

Wasting Marital Assets

Mental health and substance abuse can also affect many other aspects of your divorce. For example, if your spouse wasted marital funds to support a drug addiction, you may ask that this dissipation of assets be considered when dividing marital property, and you may also want to ask that a financial restraining order be issued to prevent against any further financial harm. If a mental illness has affected your ex's ability to work and earn an income, she may ask that you pay her spousal support or that you contribute toward the costs of her ongoing treatment.

Regardless of the severity of your ex's mental health issues, you'll want to work with an attorney who is experienced in these types of cases. Your divorce lawyer can make sure you understand your rights and help you determine the best approach to take when addressing legal issues related to your children, your finances, and your property. They will also advise you of your options if you need to ask for a mental health evaluation, a financial restraining order, or an order of protection that will keep you and your children safe from domestic abuse.

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