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4 things you should know about mental illness and divorce

Whether your mental illness is the reason for your divorce or just one of many factors, you need to understand how it can affect your situation in court.

These are some things that you should know long before you ever step foot in court:

Mental illness has lost a lot of its stigma. Judges, being generally well-educated, tend to understand that your mental illness isn't something you can just easily control. That means they can be sympathetic to your situation -- to a point. If you aren't doing what you need to do to manage your condition, a judge will quickly let you hear about it.

Depending on your situation, your mental illness may have absolutely no effect on your divorce. If you have no children, little joint property or assets and the marriage was fairly short, your condition may not factor into anything.

If your mental disorder is disabling, your spouse may have to pay spousal support. This might not make your spouse happy, but a judge could order support payments if your mental disorder keeps you from working.

However, you will probably have to submit proof to the court of your condition. You may also be required to file for Social Security benefits based on your illness, attend therapy and comply with medication orders by your doctor to keep the alimony payments.

Your mental illness could become an issue if you have children. Your spouse could attempt to use your diagnosis alone to prove that you are dangerous to the kids or unfit to care for them on your own.

That means that you want to be very cautious about letting your spouse know about your diagnosis if it's new, you're already divorcing (or headed that way) and something you can keep to yourself. You should discuss it with your attorney and doctor or therapist before you tell your spouse.

If you have a mental illness, make sure that you fully disclose the issue to your divorce attorney -- you don't want it to be a surprise later in the middle of a custody hearing. Whatever you say to your attorney will stay confidential.

Source: PairedLife, "Can a Psychiatric Diagnosis Hurt You in a Divorce?," accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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