Mental Health and Divorce in North Carolina

Divorce can be an incredibly stressful time for many people in North Carolina, and the fact that separating spouses often suffer from mental health issues should come as no surprise. For some individuals, mental health problems may manifest for the first time in the midst of a divorce. For others, existing mental health issues can become much worse amidst the emotional turbulence of a separation. Whatever the case may be, it is important to understand how mental health issues can impact your divorce, and how you can strive for the best possible legal outcome.

If you are concerned about how your own mental health issues may affect your divorce, it is best to speak with an experienced divorce attorney in North Carolina. Our lawyers can guide you through the entire legal process, regardless of what your own personal situation may be. Whether you are suffering from mental health issues or you have a spouse who is dealing with these problems, you can work with one of our attorneys to learn how best to proceed.

Mental Health Problems as Grounds for Divorce

You may have heard that mental health issues can be grounds for divorce in North Carolina. While this is true, most spouses simply file for a “no-fault” divorce under “irreconcilable differences.” In order to use your spouse’s mental illness as grounds for divorce, you would need to file a divorce on the grounds of “incurable insanity.” Note that the mental illness must be legitimately incurable, which means that a range of problems would not constitute grounds for divorce.

North Carolina specifically defines “incurable” as an illness that causes the spouses to live apart for more than three years. This means that in order to file for a divorce on the grounds of incurable insanity, you need to live apart from your spouse for more than three years. Since this three-year period is significantly longer than the one-year period for a normal no-fault divorce, few people actually choose to file for divorce on the grounds of incurable insanity.

Some people argue that substance abuse is a legitimate mental illness. If your spouse has clear addiction problems, you can also file for a divorce from bed and board on the grounds of drug or alcohol abuse. However, the standards are also quite high in this situation. The substance abuse must be so bad that the marriage becomes completely unbearable. In addition, a divorce from bed and board is not an “absolute divorce” which means that the marriage will not be legally dissolved. This option only provides you with an opportunity to physically separate and receive some form of spousal support while you pursue an absolute divorce.

Mental Illness and Child Custody

Even if mental illness is not used as grounds for divorce, it may still impact the proceedings of a no-fault divorce in North Carolina. One of the most obvious examples is child custody. A judge in North Carolina may consider a number of factors when it comes to decisions about custody, and the mental health of each parent is certainly one of them. If a parent’s mental health issues begin to cause problems for their children, a judge will take this into account.

For example, a parent’s mental health issues might have impacted their ability to care for their child. They might have spent long periods away from their child while getting treatment. Or perhaps their mental health issues have caused real, physical harm for the child.

With all that said, it is worth pointing out that a judge’s entire decision-making process is based on the well-being of the child. If your mental health issues have no impact on the well-being of your children, you are unlikely to be treated with less preference compared to your spouse. This is especially true if you are suffering from conditions like depression, OCD, anxiety, or PTSD, and you are able to behave normally and act as a high-functioning adult around your child.

Enlist the Help of a Qualified Attorney Today

If you need help from a legal professional as you juggle both mental health issues and your divorce, look no further than Arnold & Smith, PLLC. We understand that your divorce may be affected by a wide range of factors, including medical issues. Despite your mental health struggles, you can still pursue a positive legal outcome with the right divorce attorney. Reach out today, and we will make sure that you are not being unfairly treated for something you cannot even control.