Griffith, Young, and Lass Explain How Mental Illness Affects Divorce
San Diego, CA – Studies have confirmed time and again that mental illness and divorce are positively correlated.Unfortunately, the stress of a partner with anxiety, severe depression, or bipolar can strain marriage relationships either directly or indirectly (through illness-related financial trouble). While these issues can exacerbate marital strife, mental illness can also have some serious impacts on post-divorce agreements.
Someone with a diagnosed mental illness statistically has a much harder time earning to their income potential, all other factors aside, than someone else with their exact professional qualifications and no mental issues. Due to long absences from work and anxiety, mentally ill people can become somewhat stunted in their career growth towards professional, salaried positions. For this reason, the law has many protections for the mentally ill, including being excused from bearing the full financial burden that may be due them otherwise.
Alimony or maintenance money is often ordered to the other partner to support a mentally ill ex-spouse post-divorce. The alimony will be modest if the mentally unwell person has found a way to be fairly functional and hold down a job for some time. On the other hand–the alimony will be much higher if that spouse was absent from the workforce due to mental issues interfering with their jobs in the past.
Somewhat related to the reduced ability to bring in adequate financial resources, the mentally ill are given a break when it comes to child support. Even if the custodial parent is the other partner and child support is due to the mentally healthy partner, the court will not be as bold as usual in imputing a monthly obligation to the non-custodial parent should they have a mental condition. To be sure, the court will still take into account the mental illness, education, function, and pattern of past employment to impute an income to the non-custodial mentally ill person. There will still be an expectation that the person contribute towards their child, but the financial burden will fall more to the other parent.
Family court generally sees both of the parents’ involvement and presence in the child’s life as hugely important and is unlikely to seize away parental time from a parent with frail mental health. However, the decision-making capacity is very likely to fall to the other parent. Academic and medical decision-making involve many daily decisions, as well as difficult one-time choices that may be too hard for a person with severe depression/anxiety/PTSD to handle. Religious decision-making regarding the child may be split or granted to the parent with the mental illness.
When severe mental illness does incline a court towards limiting a parent’s ability to have parenting time, they will still be allowed visitation, in order to keep growing their relationship with the child.
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