You’ve decided you want a divorce because your spouse is mentally ill and the marriage is effectively over. Your spouse says you can expect a battle; this will not be a process in which the two of you agree to file because of irreconcilable differences. Laws regarding grounds for divorce vary by state, and contested filings can be complicated, so you need expert legal help.
Mental Illness as Grounds
First, find out from a divorce lawyer whether your state includes mental illness as an acceptable legal reason for divorce. If so, that will be a smoother process. Typically, the illness must be a serious and long-lasting or incurable form that constitutes legal insanity.
If your spouse fights the divorce, you’ll need to provide evidence that he or she truly is seriously mentally ill. This can be difficult since medical records are confidential. If your spouse has spent any time living in a residential mental health facility, that can be used as evidence.
Be aware that if you are the main breadwinner, the state may require you to provide ongoing financial support if the court agrees your spouse has a serious mental illness. It may be reasonable to assume he or she cannot hold a full-time job.
Other Types of Grounds
Historically, mental illness was not allowed as a legal reason for divorce, because marriage vows typically include a promise to stay together in both sickness and health. If mental illness is not considered a valid reason in your state, you can use your spouse’s negative behavior as grounds.
For instance, physical or mental cruelty may constitute a legal reason to seek a divorce. You’ll need solid evidence of this behavior that shows it’s definitively harmful to your well-being. Being hard to live with is not a legal reason for divorce.
If your spouse has had—or is currently having—an affair, that also can be grounds for divorce. You and your lawyer will need to verify that this unfaithful behavior actually occurred. This might be done by hiring a private investigator or having a reputable witness testify.
Divorce by Separation
If your spouse has the means, he or she can drag out divorce proceedings for a lengthy time frame. Ask your attorney about state laws regarding the granting of divorce after a long separation. This may be the easiest option, even though it requires patience. Some states grant a divorce after a couple has been separated for a year, for example, even if the person who left is the one filing.
Contact divorce attorneys in your area, such as from Bray & Johnson Law Firm, and decide which lawyer will be best for your situation. You’ll need emotional strength to get through this ordeal, so enlist the support of family and friends as much as you can. Eventually you’ll be able to make a fresh start and get on with your life.