How to File for Divorce When Your Spouse Is Mentally Ill

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Being married to an individual who develops a mental illness can be a difficult and emotional experience. Some cases leave the mentally stable party few options beyond divorce.

Although ending the marriage should be approached as a last resort, divorce laws in most states are understanding of these circumstances and offer mental illness as a no-fault reason for filing for divorce. This process in many ways is less tumultuous than other types of divorce due to the nature of the situation.

Research the laws governing your state. Each state has developed its own set of laws that will affect procedures for a divorce filing. Some states may require a physician's confirmation of the mental illness, while others may require a period of internment of the mentally ill prior to divorce. A few states do not list mental illness as an option for divorce.

Make sure you meet the requirements of jurisdiction, if mental illness is an honored reason for divorce. This means fulfilling the requirements your state’s law dictates. If your state does not offer mental illness as grounds for divorce, you will need to meet with a divorce lawyer to determine an appropriate reason for filing for divorce, which may ultimately be irreconcilable differences.

File a petition for divorce to begin the process. Your petition should list the mental illness as the cause of the divorce, if it is allowed under state law. You may also need to provide supplementary information and documents depending on the state, such as joint income produced by the marriage, prenuptial agreements and any mutual debts undertaken.

Undergo court proceedings to confirm the filing for divorce. The court will have to confirm that a divorce on the grounds of mental illness is legitimate, which will require testing or evaluation of your spouse by a court-appointed medical official. Once the mental illness and eligibility are confirmed, you will be cleared to complete the divorce.


About the Author

Jonathan Croswell has spent more than five years writing and editing for a number of newspapers and online publications, including the "Omaha World-Herald" and "New York Newsday." Croswell received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Nebraska and is currently pursuing a Master's of Health and Exercise Science at Portland State University.

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