Divorce and Mental Health Entwined

Posted on: May 15th, 2018

Divorce and separation is the second biggest trigger of mental health issues and one of the most stressful lifetime events anyone has to deal with.

The emotional distress of a divorce or separation frequently causes depression and it is not uncommon for many to struggle with misuse of alcohol, drugs or gambling as a coping mechanism. Infrequently divorce and separation can lead to an increase in suicide risk.

Mental health problems are not helped by other factors that divorce brings. There are family divides, and many will experience the despair of family members taking sides. When children are involved it also adds significant stress to the already conflicting emotions that a family separation causes. There may also be religious issues for some where they find that a divorce is incompatible with their religious beliefs.

Issues that are commonly encountered by family lawyers as a result of mental health difficulties include: 

  • A spouse may give up work as a result of their mental health condition which can put strain on family money
  • A spouse may struggle with their parenting skills and in some circumstances not be able to look after their children
  • A spouse with history of mental health issues may have not have worked during the marriage and find they cannot support themselves

We are often asked to advise on the issues that mental health adds to a case and in helping parties reach a resolution, we commonly ask for some of the following:

  • Letters from GPs or other medical specialists regarding a party’s diagnosis and prognosis of a mental health illness;
  • Information on a party’s ability to work due to their mental health;
  • A referral to life coaches or psychologists to assist with therapy;
  • Evidence of a party’s state benefits they are entitled to;
  • Considering whether maintenance pending suit and/or spousal maintenance should be sought on behalf of the party with mental health problems and advising on the appropriate level of maintenance for the paying party.

Mental health problems impact many families, and as specialist family lawyers it is common for us to come across them in the context of divorce proceedings. It is really important that you are upfront and honest about any diagnosis you or your spouse may have as it helps us help you.

Thankfully there is much better dialogue and openness today than ever before and we celebrate mental health awareness week as a reminder that it is time to end any stigma around the real life issues many face.

If mental health has an impact on you or your family that require legal advice, the family team at Coffin Mew are here to help.