Deciding Who Gets Primary Custody Fathers Rights Divorce Advice for Dads

Deciding Who Gets Primary Custody Fathers Rights Divorce Advice for Dads

There was a time when family court judges automatically ruled in favor of the mother. While vestiges of this default primary custody bias may still be felt in some areas of the country, the tide is turning. More and more, courts of law no longer presume that mothers are more fit parents than fathers. In fact, the odds of a dad being able to prove that the child’s best bet for a full, safe and healthy life is for him to be the custodial parent is higher than ever. There are even states that have passed laws indicating that mothers will not be given preferential treatment in custodial disputes. 

While times are changing, the reality is still that mothers are more likely to get custody of minor children. As a divorcing dad, your best bet in a custody hearing is to know some of the factors that judges commonly consider in making decisions. There are also steps you can take to outline why you are the better parent.

Factors in Awarding Custody 

The first factor the courts look at is which parent is the primary caregiver. The term “primary caregiver” essentially refers to the parent who is best able to meet the child’s needs, who accepts the most parental responsibility and who has a history of primarily cared for the child. Which parent meets the child’s most basic needs? Who handles the feeding, doctor appointments, bedtime stories and bath time fun. Historically, women, even when they work full-time, are much more likely to take on the primary caregiver roles. So start taking on as many of these tasks as you’re able. The court will take into account your history of performing such tasks.

The second factor is the parent-child bond. What is your relationship with your child? Does your child miss you when you’re away? Have you spent time building a relationship with him or her.

They younger the child is the more strong the mother-child bond may be. This does not negate your effectiveness as a father, but it’s a result of more traditional parenting roles. Because mothers are conventionally the parent that primarily cares for the child from infancy to preschool, the closeness that develops is a different sort of bond than the one that is created between father and child. The more involved you have been in the rearing of a young child, the closer your overall bond will be.

In a lot of jurisdictions, many courts presume that kids will be kept emotionally whole and healthy by having a meaningful relationship with both parents. One of the primary factors taken under consideration is which parent is more likely to foster a healthy relationship between the children and the other parent. Any parent who has attempted to commit parental alienation — such as poisoning the child against the other parent, or refusing access to the child — will not fare well in any family court. And there are other extenuating circumstances, such as allegations of child abuse and instances of domestic violence, of course.

Try To Get Along With Your Ex 

If there is any way that you can maintain a civil or even amiable relationship with your ex, it can only help your custody and visitation chances. Maintaining this type of relationship, especially in front of your children, will only help them in the long run. It’s a well-documented fact that kids who come from divorced homes fare much better if they are not used as weapons of manipulation. Allow your kids to maintain a positive, healthy relationship with both parents. Speak only positively of your ex. Not only will it help you in court, but it really is what’s best for your children.

Consider a Fathers Rights Attorney 

If you’re hoping to be the custodial parent of your child, the best course of action is to first consult a family law attorney with experience in Fathers Rights. Because laws differ from state to state and family courts can be as unpredictable as the judges who preside over them, your attorney’s insight can become the most valuable tool you have at your disposal. He or she will have some insight into how certain judges will react in any given situation, and how they may lean in custody disputes. They can help you to build the strongest case possible.

5 Ways to Find Trust After Divorce Relax – It Won’t Happen Overnight

5 Ways to Find Trust After Divorce Relax – It Won’t Happen Overnight

Divorce breaks your trust. It shatters your previously held believe how the people around you can stick with you through all the situations of life. I spent a lot of time exploring how I could regain the trust after divorce impacted my life.

When I went through it three years ago, I knew that I would be okay. It was not the end of the world as some people make it think. Society does not shun the divorced.

The challenge I had was figuring out how I could ever trust a woman again.

This is a big issue. After all, experts tell us that trusting your partner is one of the biggest predictors of success in a relationship.

The strategies I discuss below come from my experiences on the path to regaining this trust. I hope you benefit from my experiences.

Five strategies to find trust after divorce

1. Take some time for yourself

Divorce is tough. I thought I could handle anything before the divorce. Whoa! Was I wrong!

I knew things were not working right for a little while. However, when my ex finally discussed the break, I admit the event jaded me more than I could imagine.

After wanting to make it work for so long, it felt like I could trust no one except my immediate family and friends. Even then the potential for others to let me down was an ever-present fear. The one person I could rely upon was me.

I needed time to internalize what happened. My first solution to trust after the divorce was to take a sabbatical from dating.

I spent the next year regaining the trust I had in myself and then in others.

I started by striking out on my own. My parents offered me a couch for a month to get back on my feet. I refused. I need my space. To prove that I could do it on my own again.

Stupid…maybe. Needed…definitely.

Next, I reconnected with old friends I had not seen in a decade or more. My favorite was the road trip up to my old college where I crashed with a friend for a weekend on their couch.

The trip reminded me of old times and brought back a lot of great memories.

Once I did that, I also started working on improving my skills. For me, I wanted to learn some new career skills.

Fun fact: Did you know improving your business strategy skills can improve your paycheck by 4.3%? Contract negotiation skills can improve your paycheck another 5%.

The more I learn, the more comfortable I feel with my career. This gives me confidence in other areas of my life so that I can trust others.

2. Date for fun

Once you feel better about yourself, you want to trust others after divorce. The best way to do this is to go on a date.

Being single in your thirties is very different from being single in your twenties. When I dated in my twenties, you had dating websites. Not you have apps where you grade everyone within 2 seconds. It removes a lot of the personalization.

However, if you want to get out there, you must do it. 40 million Americans now use dating apps to find their partner. One in 10 people use them to find their next date. The big question becomes Tinder or Plenty of Fish? We could do something more local or based on similarities.

The choices are endless, and you parade through a gazillion potential matches in minutes. I might exaggerate a little, but this is what it feels like for someone who grew up in an era when the people dating online seemed a bit odd.

The first few dates were a disaster. However, that is why you go on a date with the first decent woman who swipes right for you. You need to get them out of your system.

You almost need a new woman to complain about besides the ex. Think about the new vistas of opportunity.

3. Keep Dating  

Once you go on those first few dates, you get a little bit of your swagger back. You remember it really was her, and not you.

You also realize someday you can feel comfortable trusting someone again. This is what happened to me. After more dating apps than I care to discuss, I found an app that seemed like gold to me. The dating app was JSwipe. It is like the Tinder for Jews.

I went on some dates, and just as I was about to take a break, I went on one last date. We ended up talking for three hours at a coffee shop on our first date.

We are closing in on our one-year anniversary, and it reminds me that I learned I can trust after divorce.

4. The Kids

I dodged one of the biggest divorce bullets out there. I did not have kids. However, I have many friends who had kids when they divorced. It complicates things. You need someone who not only you can trust after divorce, but your kids can trust as well.

For example, one friend had a daughter. His divorce proceedings lasted five years when the mother suddenly decided in the middle of the divorce she wanted to move back to Green Bay from Chicago.

They both lived in Chicago and split custody. Challenges like this encourage couples to stay together. Over time, he also found someone he could trust. However, early attempts at this did not go so well.

This is why it is not surprising the divorce rate is 40% lower for couples who have a child. It unites the parents when they work on something greater than themselves.

If that is not possible, then it happens. Just take it slow for all sides. While you might be excited for your new squeeze to see your family, your kids might not. Make sure your kids are ready before you introduce them to a potential stepmother.

5. Learning from earlier mistakes

I told my new significant other that fear not, I plan to make a whole new category of mistakes with her. While I said it in jest, it has merit.

As Winston Churchill once said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

The hardest challenge is not to compare what happened before to your current situation. I know, because I constantly remind myself just because the ex did this does not mean my girlfriend will. 

This means I need to approach things in a different light.

The biggest part of is you need to be open and honest with your partner to find a solution. You never have all the answers. Getting a different person’s perspective can help you sort through whatever challenges you have whether large or small.

Finally, you need to have a sense of humor about the mistakes you made in the past as well as the upcoming mistakes. Laughter is really the best medicine for solving your challenges.

Final Thoughts

Regaining your trust after a divorce does not happen overnight. However, with the right temperament, you can do it.

The strategies you use depends upon your specific situation. For example, if you had kids then you might need to use some different strategies than if you divorced without children.

Additionally, in some cases, you might want to start dating sooner rather than later. The key is that you need to be able to finish a conversation without talking about your ex.


(c) Can Stock Photo / focalpoint

7 Hacks for Reducing Holiday Stress Have a Joyful Life After Divorce

7 Hacks for Reducing Holiday Stress Have a Joyful Life After Divorce

You’ve probably noticed (and unless you are completely detached from anything in life, you most certainly have) that the holiday stress season is upon us. Stores are filling with the holiday essentials and more, commercials are airing advertising holiday shows, movies, and gift-giving ideas, and people are already chattering about pending holiday plans. It’s a wonderful and stressful time of year! Stay ahead of holiday stress with these seven hacks.

Whether you are naturally a lover of all things holiday or have struggled with a case of the Scrooge’s in the past, the first holiday season post-divorce is a changed game. Particularly if there are children involved. Like learning to navigate any other uncharted territory, awareness of what you are likely to be facing and pre-planning can help make all the difference between a joyous time versus a “please just fast forward to 2019 while I pull the covers over my head” attitude.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season brings with it stress. Stress isn’t always a bad thing. Some stress is healthy and motivating. It’s the push we need to feel energized to engage in activities we want to do and keeps us going through a busy and exciting time. But stress can also be negative and have detrimental effects on our physical and emotional well-being.

Negative stress is linked to sleep difficulties (difficulty falling or staying asleep), extreme fatigue, stomach issues, irritability, forgetfulness, and difficulty problem-solving. Prolonged stress can lead to high blood pressure and even trigger panic attacks. People feeling the effects of negative, prolonged stress are at higher risk for substance (or other addictive) issues and mental health problems.

If you feel yourself wanting to reach for the fast-forward button already, while simultaneously pulling the covers over your head, know that you are not alone and there are ways to ensure holiday stress doesn’t get the best of you.

Combating Holiday Stress: Social Settings

Set Boundaries with Social Gathering Invites:

Determine your priorities and what you can realistically handle in terms of time. There is never a busier time of year than the holiday season for social gatherings. You might even find yourself with more invitations for social gatherings now that you are flying solo. The family will surely be getting together, friends (probably from several different social circles) will be looking to host their own holiday bash, and the after-hours office holiday party will all be competing for your time and attention. If you have children, the invites for plays and concerts hosted by the school and church as well as gatherings with their friends will start flowing in as well.

Determining what you can handle in terms of time on the front end will help in knowing immediately which gatherings you can gladly RSVP “yes” and which you can politely decline. Have in mind an idea of how many days or evenings a week you want to be engaged in social activity, and which days or evenings are the best fit for you and your family. You may determine that Friday and Saturday evenings are best and that requests for Sundays or a certain evening of the work week need thoughtful consideration (based on priorities) before accepting the invitation.

Equally important is knowing your priorities. For example, if you have children you are likely to determine that, first and foremost, attending their holiday concert at school is priority one. If you’re not all the crazy about the crew you interact with daily at work, you might decide to forego the office holiday gathering (or determine a plan to “make an appearance” for a shortened period).

Whatever you decide, give yourself permission to politely decline invites for social engagements that simply don’t fit with your priorities and time. It is better to fully commit to fewer gatherings, where you can be present and enjoy yourself than it is to over-extend and feel miserable and tired at every gathering you received, and accepted an invitation.

Mentally Prepare for Social Gatherings:

If you are newly separated or divorced, those with whom you haven’t yet had contact (but who are aware of your circumstance) are going to be looking to you for cues on interaction. Some will follow these cues flawlessly while others will be more awkward, but you can certainly be <mostly> in control of the interaction. Decide ahead of time how you might respond to questions (direct or subtle). If you are willing to share information, go into the social gathering knowing what and how much you have a willingness to share. Also, have top of mind “subject changers” so when you’ve said all you are willing to say on the topic you can steer the conversation in another direction. You also are well within your right to comment very briefly and clearly communicate your preference not to continue discussion on the matter (“yes, it’s been difficult, and I prefer not to talk about it. Thank you for your concern and for keeping me in your thoughts” ….insert subject changer).

Social Gatherings and Gift Exchanges:

The holidays don’t have to be about buying extravagant gifts for everyone you know.  Determine and to stick to your budget with gift buying. This goes for gift buying for your children as well. Consider DIY projects that are cost-effective, and purchasing experiences that you might be footing the bill for in the future anyway. For example, if you have children consider passes to a movie, children’s museum, water park, or other activity they might enjoy getting more bang for your buck. There is the thrill of opening a gift with a stuffed giraffe and passes to the zoo in the gift opening moment, followed by opportunity for an outing that you were probably going to pay for down the road anyway.

Check out this resource for inexpensive gift ideas for adults in your life, and these inexpensive gift ideas for kids.

If there are gift exchanges at other social gatherings that are optional (i.e., the office holiday party, or a white elephant exchange at a friends’ holiday bash), consider opting out if it just doesn’t fit your budget.

Combating Holiday Stress: Personal Wellness

Take Time for You:

Make time to participate in activities that you find to be relaxing and rejuvenating and resist the temptation to feel guilty about needing a holiday obligation break. These essential breaks will aid in your ability to better enjoy the holiday activities you have committed to and channel the holiday stress into being positive.

Get Exercise:

Even when you are feeling worn out and unmotivated, pencil in some physical activity. Doing so will lower adrenaline and cortisol (i.e., stress hormones) within the body and this is the absolute best way to fight negative effects of stress. You don’t need to log half an hour on the treadmill or train for a triathlon. Scheduling a tennis match with a friend, shooting hoops, or a brisk walk in the cooler weather can be just what your body needs to clear out excess stress hormone and leave you feeling more relaxed.

Practice Relaxation Skills:
Relaxation activities force us to slow down and help our bodies to regroup. Consider deep breathing exercises, turn on relaxing music, practice meditation, or go for a quiet drive after the sun goes down. Maybe even consider scheduling a massage. Not sure where to start? This short relaxation video will walk you through five minutes of relaxation.

Get Adequate Rest:
During times of high stress (whether positive or negative) it’s quite likely that our bodies will require more rest than is our norm. Our bodies will also let us know when this is the case, so we must be careful to listen. When you are feeling physically or mentally worn out, don’t strive to complete just a couple more tasks. Instead, call it a day and tuck in; your body will thank you for doing so.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be characterized by holiday stress, even when you have experienced significant life changes. Everyone gets an opportunity to decide, and be in control of, how they are going to approach this busy time of year. Know your priorities, set boundaries (don’t feel guilty about doing so), and don’t forget to care for yourself.


(c) Can Stock Photo / vitalytitov

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Move Away from Your Kids Life-Altering Divorce Advice for Dads

8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Move Away from Your Kids Life-Altering Divorce Advice for Dads

Thinking about starting over somewhere else? Take a look at eight good reasons you shouldn’t move away from your kids.

During a divorce, your kids are often the ones who are affected the most. You and your ex understand why your relationship had to come to an end, but your children don’t always see it the way you do, especially if they are young.  If you are the non-custodial parent, you may feel like moving away to get away from the overwhelm of the divorce, but that is not necessarily the best road to take. And if your ex is thinking about relocating with your kids, this would be a good time to put a stop to it. 

Why You Might Consider Moving Away

There are a number of reasons why you may move away from your kids after your divorce. Like I mentioned above, you may want to get away from it all and feel like moving away is the best option. You might be from another state or country and feel the need to move back home for support. Perhaps you got a job offer that is hard to resist, or even met another woman while you were on a trip somewhere, or are starting a relationship with someone in another state.  

Why You Shouldn’t Move Away from Your Kids

There are lots of reasons why you might consider moving away after your divorce, but that decision has the potential to be harmful to your relationship with your kids. Here’s what could happen.  

1. It Could Strain Your Relationship

If you move away from your kids, there is no question that you will miss big events and important milestones in their life. When you miss these important events, your kids may start to feel like you don’t care and aren’t invested in the relationship. They need you there for not only the big events but smaller achievements and even just day-to-day experiences that build your relationship stronger. Chats about their struggles at school, picking them up from their extra-circulars and helping them with homework. Once your relationship becomes strained, it is hard to get it back on track, and being close in proximity is one of the main things you can do to keep your relationship strong.  

2. It Causes Emotional Stress

It is already going to be tough staying in a different house than your kids, let alone moving miles away. Both you and your children need each other to physically be there to help with the emotional stress of the divorce. You need to see each other, hug each other and talk to each other face-to-face on a regular basis to make the situation easier for both of you. It is extremely important you are together for birthdays, holidays, recitals or sports games, and it is a lot more meaningful if you are there for it all rather than stopping into the city when you can.  

3. You May Get Alienated

This one depends on your relationship with your ex and the type of person she is, but if she already wants to keep your kids all to herself, you leaving is not going to help the situation. She may tell your kids you don’t care about them and don’t want to be near them anymore, and tell them not to have contact with you. If you have a toxic ex, who talks badly about you to your children, you are going to want to have as much in-person contact with them as possible to make sure you offer positive, loving experiences that don’t match what your ex is saying about you.  

4. It Affects Their Physical and Mental Health

A study published in The Journal of Family Psychology found that children of divorced parents who lived at least an hour-drive away from one of the parents are significantly less well-off mentally and physically than children whose parents did not relocate after divorce. They also found children had a better rapport with both parents when they both stayed close by, and had better overall health. This study makes it clear that children are strongly affected by the distance of one of their parents during a divorce and need both their parents in close proximity to lead a healthy lifestyle.  

5. Your Bond May Break (Especially If They’re Young)

Think about the age of your children. Are they old enough to know who you are, have you formed a close enough bond with them to be seen as their father figure? If your child is two or three and just developing a bond with you, you do not want to risk breaking that bond. If you move away from your kids, instead of seeing them multiple times a week, you may only see them a couple times a year, and if you leave before that bond develops, you may never have a strong relationship with your kids.   

6. They Need You As a Role Model

Kid’s parents are often their biggest role models. They see you as prominent, strong and loving figures in their life and they admire you for what you do and who you are. They look up to you and rely on your guidance when they need to make choices and decisions. It is more difficult to be a role model when you live hours away and barely see them. Even with technologies like Skype and FaceTime, you can be more of a prominent figure and role model when you are physically in their life.

7. They May Wonder If It Was Their Fault

Kids have wild imaginations and sometimes blame themselves when something doesn’t go right. If you move away, they may think it was their fault and wonder what they did to make you leave. Even if you tell them you are not moving because of them, they still have a mind of their own and may make up reasons for your relocating in their head. They may think they did something bad or that you don’t care about them anymore, which is hard to come to terms with as a child, even if it is not true. They are already going through a lot of emotional distress from the divorce, and putting the blame on themselves is only going to make it worse.

8. Your Relationship May Fade

This may be the worst of all. If you move away from your kids, you may see them so little that they become a distant part of your life. The more you see someone, the closer you are to them and the stronger relationship you share. You may make a considerable effort to visit them in the first couple years, but over time people get busy, and the distance may get to be more of a hassle. You may start seeing them less and less, and once that relationship gets weaker, it is possible that neither side will put in their effort to make it work. There won’t be any hard feelings, just the understanding that you are not a big part of each other’s lives anymore because neither is making the time or effort to see each other in person.

Deciding to move away from your children can be life altering for you and for them. Don’t let the pain of divorce push you into a rushed decision. Your life, and theirs, is worth taking the time to consider the long-term results of your choices. 

 


(c) Can Stock Photo / soupstock

Adult Sport Leagues All the fun of childhood after-school sports...plus beer!

Adult Sport Leagues All the fun of childhood after-school sports...plus beer!

For men, sport leagues are often central to memories of growing up. Reminiscing on the camaraderie of a team, snack bar nachos, the thrill of competition, family screaming from the stands, and the exhilaration of a home run, a 3 pointer right at the buzzer or a perfectly placed goal kick — all of these can bring back emotions as fresh as if they happened yesterday.

Sport Leagues Aren’t Just For Kids 

We shed much of our childhood joys as we grow into our adult lives, but playing on sport leagues doesn’t have to be one of them.  Adult leagues from dodgeball (yes, I said dodge ball!) to indoor volleyball, flag football, and more exist in cities and towns all across the country. As the motto of The Las Vegas Dodgeball Society says, “Who says adults can’t have recess?”

Adult sport leagues are great for couples or singles. If you’re looking to bring back that youthful, carefree feeling of playing in a league, but also want to squeeze in more quality time with your partner while doing it, you can have your Twinkie and eat it too.  As a couple, it’s difficult to find activities to do together that are affordable and out of the ordinary “dinner and a movie” routine. Since many adult sport leagues are co-ed, they can give those that are dating or married a chance to bond (or, in other words, get the “we never do anything fun together anymore” nagging to stop), in an active, social environment, all without bloating the budget.

For singles it can be a real score. You can make friends, and find potential love interests, without the pressure and expense of dating.

Relax and Be One of the Guys 

Same-sex sport leagues can be a heaven-sent escape from the stress of work and kids. A softball league, basketball league, or soccer team can be a fun opportunity to grab relief from the responsibilities of family life, and just be one of the guys.

Adult leagues integrate a healthy, active lifestyle, with the fun and games that made team sports such a blast growing up. When compared with being stuck on a treadmill, or the sometimes intimidating and cliquish environment of membership gyms, getting out and smacking some softballs, capturing the flag or dodging balls as they fly at your face, can be a fun, stress-free recreation loaded with health and fitness benefits. Staying active is essential as we age, in order to maintain flexibility, a healthy heart, balance and metabolism. If staying in shape is something that we must do for ourselves, why not make it an entertaining routine you look forward to every week?

The Right Team For You 

Whether indoor or outdoor sports are your preference, and whether you favor serious competition, or more friendly fun, there is an adult league that is right for you. Check online for the sport or recreation that brings back the old thrill of green grass, uniforms, sunflower seeds and pre-game pep talks.

And the best part about adult sport leagues? The post-game pizza comes with beer.


(c) Can Stock Photo / photocreo

Divorcing a Spouse with Mental Illness How to Balance Compassion and Caution

Divorcing a Spouse with Mental Illness How to Balance Compassion and Caution

Mental illness refers to some form of psychopathology that makes the mind function differently. It is a broad term that encompasses many types of diagnoses, from chemical imbalances like bipolar disorder to personality disorders like narcissism or borderline personality disorder.

Divorces carry a certain degree of stress and strife. It is inevitable. Keeping conflict and emotions to a minimum is not easy, but it reduces the cost to your emotional and financial health to make the process as smooth as possible. The less time billed by attorneys, the easier your financial recovery will be. The more civil the divorce negotiations, the less emotional damage you will have to recover from. Unfortunately, when your spouse is mentally ill, it can exacerbate the challenges to keeping the process rational and non-combative.

Mental illnesses have varying degrees of success with treatment. Many, such as chemical imbalances like bipolar disorder, are quite manageable, but only if a patient is willing to seek help and follow a program of treatment. Depression is a disorder that can be difficult to diagnose and can be hit or miss in terms of treatment. Some, like personality disorders, can be difficult to both diagnose and treat.

Many who are mentally ill have not been diagnosed, some choosing to self-medicate with alcohol or narcotics. The stigma of mental illness often keeps people from seeking help. Others are in denial, which can be a symptom of the illness itself.  Most who seek treatment and responsibly manage their illness with medication and therapy can lead productive, healthy lives. How the patient manages their illness is critical to their capacity to function at a high level, or their inability to function at even a basic level.

The best bet is to find out as much information about your spouse’s diagnosis and treatment as possible. In that way, you can relate to her in a manner that promotes her optimal mental health and leads to the best outcome for you both.

Co-dependency

The first hurdle many face when dissolving their marriage is overcoming the guilt of leaving someone they vowed to stand by “ in sickness and in health.” To make matters worse, your spouse may use her illness against you, accusing you of abandoning her when she needs you most. She may plead for you to stay, professing she cannot get better without your help. Your marriage may be trapped in a draining codependency that can be agonizing to break free from.

Living in dysfunction distorts reality, to the point where emotional abuse or coercion can become normalized. Consult a professional, or touch base with those outside of your situation, to get a sanity check. You may be surprised to realize inappropriate behaviors and responses you have come to accept as normal are dysfunctional and damaging. Organizations like Codependents Anonymous can be a valuable resource.

You may love your wife deeply and be committed to your family, but if she fails to follow a treatment plan and take accountability for her own mental health, you cannot swoop in and save her with the power of your love. She needs to want to get better for herself and be responsible for her own mental health, or it will never work.

Challenges of Mental Illness and Divorce

The stress and heartache brought on by dissolving a marriage are not easy for anyone to manage. When the impact is aggravated by mental illness, it can lead to disastrous results. Those with depression can develop suicidal thoughts, or those in a manic bipolar episode may lose all impulse control, acting out in ways that endanger themselves or others.

Mentally ill spouses may lash out with aggressive legal strategies, or employ passive-aggressive tactics that drag out or obstruct the divorce process.  Diligently document every episode so you have proof that can be introduced in court. Be as specific as possible; vague statements carry less weight than examples with dates, times and detailed descriptions. It’s a good idea to find a lawyer who has experience in this area and can help advise you of what to expect and how best to deal with it to ensure a positive outcome. Expect the unexpected. Unpredictability is a characteristic of most mental illnesses. Be cautious and protect yourself and your kids. While your wife is not to blame for her illness and you want to show compassion for what she is going through, you are also obliged to take steps to make sure you and your children are safe.

Filing for Divorce

All states offer no-fault grounds for divorce.  You can file under the ” irreconcilable differences” catchall, or on the basis of a separation that meets the accepted length of time. A no-fault divorce avoids putting blame on one party or the other and can help minimize conflict. 

Filing on the basis of insanity, in states where it is permissible, requires that your wife’s mental condition meets a sufficient number of criteria that can be difficult and expensive to prove. Since divorce law varies by state, you must consult an attorney in your state, or do your own research, to determine how mental illness affects filing for divorce in your home state.

At minimum, most states will require that your wife’s condition is not likely to improve and that it has been present for a certain amount of years (usually no less than five). In some states, that will not be sufficient. These jurisdictions will require your wife have been institutionalized for a number of years and that she be certified mental ill by one or more psychiatric physicians, and/or be adjudicated as mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction. While the specifics vary by state, you will bear the burden of a substantial amount of proof, and it is a complex and time-consuming process. Should you feel that filing for divorce on the grounds of your wife’s mental illness is necessary, perhaps you fear she is a danger to your children for example, then start by gathering her psychiatric and medical records, credible witnesses (such as her family members), and even experts that can testify about her condition.

Staying Compassionate but Emotionally Detached

The more informed you are about your wife’s mental illness—the symptoms, treatment plan, and long-term prognosis—the better your ability to make decisions as to how to proceed in a way that is best for her and keeps you safe.  While you want to have compassion for your wife’s struggle with her condition and assist her in being as self-sufficient as possible, it is also important to avoid getting sucked into any emotional pitfalls that can set you both back. It can be immensely helpful to seek professional help from a psychiatrist or counselor to get a handle on how to avoid resenting, blaming or harming your spouse for a serious illness that is not her fault. Don’t take actions and words flung in the passion of the moment too personally; they are likely a result of a mind aggravated by mental illness and not an indictment of you as a person. Try your best to proceed through the difficulties that arise from her condition without anger or resentment to help you both move on in as compassionate and healthy a way as possible.

Pin It on Pinterest