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Divorce can be an incredibly challenging situation for anyone to deal with, but it can be particularly difficult when one or both spouses struggle with mental health issues. Navigating the legal process of divorce in Pennsylvania is complicated enough on its own.  

When one spouse has mental health concerns that impact their behavior, decision-making ability, or communication skills, it can be even more complex. In this blog post, we'll share some important tips and considerations to keep in mind if you're divorcing a spouse with mental health issues in Pennsylvania. 

Does Mental Illness Affect the Divorce Settlement or Process?  

Mental illness can have a significant impact on the divorce process in Pennsylvania. Such implications can include:  

  • Child custody. Mental illness can have a significant impact on child custody decisions. Although mental illness alone is not enough to deny custody, it can be a factor in determining whether a parent is fit to care for their child. Pennsylvania courts evaluate the best interests of the child when determining custody, and the court may consider the mental health of each parent when making its decision. Moreover, parents with a history of mental health concerns may have restrictions placed on their custody arrangement. In some cases, it may be necessary to involve mental health experts to provide information on a parent's condition to make an informed custody determination. 

  • Grounds for divorce. According to Pennsylvania Code § 3301(b), a spouse can petition the court to grant a divorce from a spouse “upon the ground that insanity or serious mental disorder has resulted in confinement in a mental institution for at least 18 months.”  

  • Asset division. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state. This means that the court distributes marital assets and debts in a manner that is fair, but not necessarily equal, to each spouse based on a list of factors set forth in the law. In cases where one spouse has a history of mental illness, the court may consider the impact of the illness on the marriage and the ability of the mentally ill spouse to manage property. 

What to Know When Divorcing a Spouse with a Mental Illness  

Here are some advice concerning mental health concerns and divorce:  

  1. Seek professional advice. If you are divorcing a spouse with mental health issues, it is critical to seek professional advice from a trusted attorney who has experience working with these types of cases. Your attorney can help you understand your legal options, develop a plan for dealing with your spouse's potential behaviors or reactions during the divorce process, and ensure you're taking steps to protect your own interests and well-being.

  2. Consider a mental health evaluation. In some cases, it may be necessary to request a formal mental health evaluation for your spouse as part of the divorce process. This can help you gain a better understanding of their mental health condition, which can help inform decisions about things like child custody and support arrangements, spousal support, and property division.  

  1. Focus on communication. Communication can be challenging in any divorce, but it can be particularly difficult when mental health issues are involved. While communicating with your spouse may be challenging, you can rely on your attorney to handle communicating with the other party (or their attorney). It is also important that you are open and honest when communicating with your attorney.  

  1. Don't neglect yourself (or your child). Divorcing a spouse with mental health issues can take a toll on your emotional and mental well-being. It is important to make self-care a priority during this time, whether that means seeking support from a therapist or counselor, spending time with friends or family, or engaging in activities that help you feel calm and centered. Taking care of your own needs can also help you better navigate challenges that may arise during the divorce process.  

  1. Anticipate challenges. Divorcing a spouse with mental health issues is likely to present unique challenges throughout the process. It is important to anticipate and prepare for potential issues, such as sudden changes in your spouse's mental health status, noncompliance with legal orders, or other complications. Working closely with your attorney can help you stay as prepared and resilient as possible.    

Get Legal Help  

Cairns Law Offices offers Pennsylvanians high-quality, affordable divorce services. We can help you file a no-fault, uncontested divorce for only $299. Our firm also handles other cases, including:  

Call (888) 863-9115 to get started on your case.  

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