- Published: June 8, 2015
Key informants in the legal arena observed that a parent's diagnosis of mental illness can have a profound impact in divorce proceedings when custody and visitation determinations are made. Divorcing parents are faced with multiple stressors including the trauma of loss, grief, and financial burdens, which are usually more extreme for women than for men. Key informants suggested that mothers experiencing mental illness, particularly those whose ability to maintain employment is compromised, are often unable to afford the costs of divorce, e.g., lawyers fees, evaluations for the children, child care, missed work, and are therefore at a disadvantage. Many lawyers are reluctant to take divorce or custody cases where a parent has a mental illness. Most often this fear stems from a lack of knowledge about mental illness and how this relates to a person's ability to be a good parent. Situations where supervised visitation is necessary are also problematic because supervisors are both costly and difficult to find . ( read more )Moreover, a 2001 study from the University from Massachusetts found that divorce is far above the norm in women with brain tumors. MS, and systematic cancer. The divorce rate is also higher in women than in men with the same illnesses. Divorce laws on ground of insanity exist in some states, and they usually require that the illness be long-term, ongoing, or declared incurable. Some institutions offer assistance to parents suffering from mental illnesses, such as the Threshold Mother's Project in Chicago. This institution offers programs for mothers and children, and in some cases may offer legal counsel in divorce cases. It would be nice to see more work done to help all those involved in such divorce cases, as more becomes known about mental illnesses and "parental competency." Sources: 1. http://family-law.lawyers.com/divorce/Grounds-for-Divorce-Insanity.html 2. "Divorce in Women with Serious Illness." Journal of Neuroscience Nursing 33.5 (Oct 2001): 286. Health Reference Center Academic. Gale. Houston Academy of Medicine-TMC. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodId=HRCA>.