“My spouse is crazy!” and other mental health allegations

mental healthIn my years of practice as a family attorney, clients have expressed all kinds of frustration over their spouses’ decisions, behaviors, and habits. That is to be expected: after all, if Husband and Wife generally agreed on key matters like lifestyle, money management, and child rearing, there would be no need to get a divorce in the first place! Occasionally, their complaints and concerns go beyond “standard” annoyances into the territory of mental health. From anxiety and depression to substance abuse, these claims can have an impact on the divorce process.

What should you do if you are concerned about the mental health of your spouse?

I recommend you begin by having a conversation with your attorney. He or she will probably ask you for specific examples that give you cause for concern. Be as precise and honest as possible. Describe what actually happened without trying to read into your spouse’s motivations or thought process.

In my experience, concerns vary from issues with alcohol and drug addiction, to gambling and bipolar disorder.  You have the option of requesting therapy, parenting assessments to psychological exams, and/or custody evaluations for your spouse.  Just be prepared to submit to the same.  It is important to weigh the necessity of those options v. the long-term impact of the request.  Sometimes therapy, assessments and exams are necessary; other times, open, honest communication can go a long way. The collaborative process helps facilitate relationships past your divorce.

In cases that involve co-parenting or custody decisions, the ultimate question is the spouses’ ability to be fit parents. Unless your situation is clear-cut (for example, your spouse has a history of physical abuse or drunk driving), proving a mental disorder in court can be an expensive and tough challenge. Get advice before you step on that path to ensure the best outcome for you and your family.

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