When it comes to filing for divorce, there are “mixed states”
where spouses can file for divorce on fault-based grounds or no-fault
grounds, and then there are “no-fault” states where spouses
can only file for
divorce on no-fault grounds.
In mixed states, such as New York, spouses who are seeking a fault-based
divorce must prove adultery, abandonment, incurable insanity, neglect,
abuse, or another fault-based ground to obtain a fault-based divorce.
It’s a lot easier to obtain a no-fault divorce even if someone truly
was in the wrong. For example, if one spouse was physically abusive, or
one spouse cheated, or one spouse was mentally ill, the spouse filing
for a no-fault divorce does not need to prove that their spouse’s
misconduct led to the demise of the marriage.
Just about every state lets spouses file for divorce on no-fault grounds,
even if someone was at-fault. If a spouse wants an easier divorce, all
they have to do is file a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences.
They don’t need to get into pointing any fingers.
California is Strictly a No-Fault Divorce State
If you’re a resident of California and you want to seek a divorce
because of your spouse’s
mental health issues, you may want to know if you can file for divorce based on incurable
insanity. While California is strictly a no-fault divorce state, it does
actually let people file for divorce because of legal incapacity or “incurable
However, to file for divorce on the ground of incurable insanity, there
will be a high burden of proof that you’ll have to meet. In other
words, this is not an easy way to get divorced in California. To succeed,
you’ll need to provide sufficient and convincing medical documentation,
or you’ll need testimony from a psychiatrist that demonstrates to
the court that:
- At the time you filed for your divorce, your husband or wife was incurably
- The medical professionals overseeing your spouse’s care expect him
or her to be incapacitated and incapable of making important decisions
for some time, if not indefinitely.
Should I Consider a Legal Separation?
Has your spouse been committed to a mental institution? Are you concerned
that he or she will be there for a long time? Or, are you concerned that
even if he or she is released in the next several months or year, that
you’ll still have difficulty living with them and maintaining a
If you have concerns about the future of your marriage, or how your spouse
will respond to therapy and medication, a legal separation may be a temporary
alternative to divorce as you wait and see how your spouse responds to treatment. If you are
not ready for a divorce, a legal separation may be a better option.
California is one of a handful of states that allows for legal separations.
A legal separation is much like a divorce in that it can address
spousal support, and
property division. The main difference is that with a legal separation, you are still married
and you are not legally divorced. Meaning, you cannot marry someone else
until your legal separation is converted to a divorce.
If you are interested in legally separating for now while you wait and
see what happens, you can live separate lives, but continue enjoying the
benefits of marriage, such as Social Security benefits, health insurance,
dental insurance, and veteran’s benefits. Of course, if you’re
happy being legally-separated, you can stay that way indefinitely. There
is no pressure to get on with the divorce unless you decide you want to remarry.
Can a Mentally-Ill Spouse Prevent a Divorce?
Suppose your spouse has severe mental health issues and they have deeply
affected your marriage. Now, you are certain that you want a divorce but
you’re concerned that your mentally-ill spouse can stop you from
obtaining a divorce because of their mental status.
In a criminal case, someone can plead insanity as a legal defense and instead
of being sentenced to jail or prison, they can be placed in a psychiatric
hospital. That may be possible in the criminal justice system, but the
same procedures do not apply to divorce cases. Your spouse cannot stop
the divorce because they are “incurably insane” or placed
under the care of a mental institution.
Your spouse cannot stop a divorce by pleading insanity, but they can be
afforded certain legal protections. A judge may decide that if your spouse
is living in a mental health facility, that he or she should be appointed
a guardian ad litem to represent them during the divorce to ensure their
legal interests are protected.
Can Mental Health Impact a Divorce?
In some situations, a spouse’s mental health issues can impact their
divorce proceeding from child custody to property division and everything
in between. Generally, severe mental health issues have the biggest impact
on child custody and spousal support rulings.
For example, mental health issues can impact a spouse’s ability to
hold down a job and support themselves. In effect, a judge may award the
mentally ill spouse additional spousal support if the judge deems it necessary.
“What about child support?” If your spouse is suffering from
mental illnesses, keep in mind that mental health issues do not free a
parent of their child support obligations. For example, you may be awarded
primary custody of the children because your spouse is mentally unstable,
but that does not change the fact that he or she is still expected to
financially support the children you have together. Parents have a legal
duty to financially support their children, even if they have been diagnosed
with mental health issues.
Can Antidepressants Affect Child Custody in a Divorce?
Contact our firm to meet with a Los Angeles divorce lawyer for free.