Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

Divorce from a mentally ill partner: What to consider?

The saying "love is blind" is often very true. When one gets married, one seems to be blind to any warning signs or faults of the other person. As time goes by, these warning signs may point to something much more ominous, and divorce may become an option. This situation may be especially true in cases of mental illnesses, as signs may only emerge later in the marriage.  

In New Jersey, mental illness is seen as a form of psychopathology resulting in brain functions that differ from the way most other people's brains work. People suffering from mental illnesses may have problems functioning optimally. While mental illnesses can be treated with medication and/or therapy, some cases are never diagnosed.

When divorcing a person suffering from a mental disorder, one should be cognizant of some important facts. First, stress may lead to an increase in the effects of the disorder. For instance, a depressed person may become severely depressed and end up suicidal. Stress can even lead to manifestation of a mental illness that had previously gone unnoticed.

Second, it may be helpful to realize that although one may feel responsible for someone because of the time spent together, one cannot take responsibility for an ex-spouses' irrational actions. It is imperative to recognize when mental illness is used to manipulate one to remain in a marriage. Finally, one's safety should be a first concern, particularly when the ex-spouse is aggressive and threats are made.

Mental illness should not be seen as a reason to remain in a marriage. However, one should realize that the divorce process may be more complicated in cases where one party suffers from a mental condition. A consultation with a New Jersey family law lawyer to obtain advice on the best way forward may be prudent.       

Source:, "Divorcing a Mentally Ill Spouse," Tamsen Butler, accessed on Aug. 9, 2017

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