A mental illness is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feelings or mood. It can also affect a person’s ability to cope with the demands of day-to-day living. Mental illness encompasses a wide variety of disorders, ranging from anxiety to PTSD to schizophrenia. The stress of mental illness doesn’t just take a toll on the person living with it, but also on his or her relationships – especially family and marriage.
If mental illness and mental health is a factor in your Nashville divorce, you should be aware of the challenges and complications you may face. Following is a bit of information and guidance to help you meet those challenges.
Mental illness and divorcing
We will be using the term “mental illness” to encompass the vast array of diagnoses, with the understanding that everyone’s situation is different. When it comes to mental health issues, the majority of people handle their conditions successfully. Through the use of medication, therapy and coping skills, most people manage their daily symptoms.
However, some people either remain undiagnosed or refuse to seek help or treatment. Some deal with their symptoms by self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. During a divorce, these coping mechanisms can have a direct effect on you and your divorce proceedings.
If your spouse suffers from severe depression, you may be afraid that proceeding with a divorce could cause a depressive episode or worse. Depression and anxiety can also make it impossible for them to work with you on divorce settlements and negotiations.
If your spouse suffers from a mental illness or issue that makes him or her prone to unstable or violent behavior, you may fear for your safety during the divorce. Or, a spouse with a partner with a personality disorder may have to endure lies or smear campaigns during their divorce.
Remember – document everything
Like any divorce, it’s important to document events and interactions for your (and your attorney’s) records. However, when mental illness is involved, it’s even more crucial. Especially if you feel your spouse’s mental illness puts you or your children in danger, recording or documenting any time he or she makes you unsafe can help you obtain a protective order from the court.
If you have children together, you should also document times when you spouse fails to show up for parenting time or other parental obligations (like school or doctor appointments), or if you feel the mental health issues are affecting his or her ability to parent.
Some mental health conditions can cause people to lie or refute the facts about situations, which is why it’s especially important to document all interactions.
Don’t forget self-care
Dealing with mental illness in family members is extremely stressful, and there’s no shame in seeking assistance in coping with these challenges. In fact, it’s encouraged. When divorcing a mentally ill spouse, many people seek out therapy or support groups to help them cope with the strain and pressure.
However, you should never – ever – confide in or share your problems with your children. This may cause them to feel conflicted between their parents and that they may have to choose sides.
An experienced and compassionate Nashville divorce attorney can work with you to help the divorce process go more smoothly. We’re sensitive to the struggle of mental health issues. Please call 615.454.9899 or use our contact form to schedule a consultation with Miller Upshaw Family Law, PLLC today.