Over one percent of United States adults suffer from schizophrenia, and more than 2.5% of Americans live with bipolar disorder. Millions of Americans have a spouse with mental illness, and sometimes it can break a family apart.
This article explains how mental health affects divorce in Illinois. If you have additional questions about mental health and divorce in Illinois after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
In addition to divorcing on the no-fault grounds of irreconcilable differences, Illinois law also allows spouses to divorce for fault grounds, such as adultery or extreme cruelty. Unlike most other states, however, a spouse’s mental illness isn’t grounds for divorce in Illinois.
While a spouse’s mental health issues won’t directly affect the division of the marital estate, courts may adjust the property split based on each spouse’s health, income sources, and employability. A judge may decide to give a mentally ill spouse with decreased earning potential a larger share of the marital estate to help cover future expenses.
A spouse may also seek a divorce due to the other spouse’s habitual drug use or alcohol abuse. To obtain a divorce for based on one spouse's substance abuse problems, the plaintiff spouse must show that the other spouse has abused drugs or alcohol for at least two years prior to filing for divorce. The court’s test for habitual intoxication is whether the use of alcohol or drugs has become a controlling or dominant purpose in the addicted spouse’s life.
Illinois courts don’t consider either spouse’s fault when dividing marital property, so an addicted spouse isn’t typically at a disadvantage in property division. If the addicted spouse spent a larger share of marital assets funding the addiction, however, the judge can decrease the addicted spouse’s share of the estate to compensate the other spouse.
Courts consider many factors when determining an appropriate child custody arrangement, all centered on what is in a child’s best interest. Each parent’s mental health can impact custody. If a parent’s mental health issues interfere with competent parenting, that parent is less likely to win custody. Judges look at each parent’s specific circumstances to determine whether it’s necessary to restrict that parent’s custodial rights.
Courts have several restrictions they can utilize to protect children. Often, parents are required to meet with a psychiatrist and comply with additional recommended treatment and medication. If there are additional issues, judges may forbid overnight visitation, or order a professional to supervise visitation periods. If problems persist, the court can suspend visitation.
In certain cases, the court has the power to terminate parental rights. When a court finds a parent unfit to have custody, the judge can legally and permanently sever the parent-child relationship. There are several grounds for terminating parental rights, from serious criminal conduct, to abandonment, to failure to contact or communicate with a child.
Illinois courts may also terminate parental rights when a parent is mentally ill or disabled and can’t perform basic parental responsibilities. For mental illness to be grounds for termination of parental rights, a mental health expert must testify that the parent is mentally ill or insane, and there’s no reasonable hope of recovery in the foreseeable future.
Addiction disorders can also affect custody decisions. Courts often order parents with substance abuse issues to seek help, and show proof of compliance with recommended treatment. Addicted parents often must take random drug and alcohol screens, and are prohibited from getting intoxicated prior to and during visitation periods. In serious cases, a court may suspend overnight visitation or only allow supervised visitation. In extreme cases, judges can terminate an addicted parent’s parental rights.
When determining whether to award a spouse alimony in a divorce, judges consider a wide host of factors, including each spouse’s income, needs, and present and future earning capacity. Courts also consider each spouse’s physical and mental condition. Judges often order a working, sane spouse to pay alimony to a mentally ill spouse with limited resources. Illinois courts calculate monthly alimony by taking 30% of the paying spouse’s gross income minus 20% of the supported spouse’s gross income. The duration of the award is the length of the marriage multiplied by the following factors: 0-5 years (.20), 5-10 years (.40), 10-15 years (.60), 15-20 years (.80). In marriages of more than twenty years, the judge will either award lifetime alimony or alimony lasting the length of the marriage. The court can then adjust the calculated alimony up or down based on the couple’s particular circumstances.
A spouse’s addition to drugs or alcohol may have an affect on alimony in limited circumstances. Typically, marital misconduct has no affect on an alimony award. Sometimes a judge will order a spouse to pay for the drug or alcohol treatment of an addicted spouse. This isn’t to punish the sober spouse; it’s intended to push the addicted spouse to become financially self-sufficient.
A mentally incapacitated person can’t file for divorce, either personally or through a guardian. The test for mental capacity is as follows: if the individual can’t understand the nature of the proceeding and determine whether he or she wants a divorce, that individual lacks the capacity to divorce. Similarly, a person can’t get married when he or she can’t understand the nature of marriage and make an independent decision to wed.
Illinois judges can “annul” a marriage (declare that it's void) when it shouldn’t have been allowed from the beginning. Normally, courts annul marriages when one spouse didn’t, or couldn’t, consent to the marriage, such as when a spouse is underage or was forced to get married. A spouse who is mentally incapacitated, or mentally ill to the degree there’s no understanding of the nature of marriage, may be eligible for an annulment.
Similarly, if a spouse was under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants and couldn’t understand the nature of the ceremony, a judge may annul the marriage, unless the couple freely lived together after becoming sober. Either spouse can ask for an annulment for insanity or intoxication, but it must be within 90 days of discovering the grounds for annulment.
If you have additional questions about divorce and mental health, contact an Illinois family law attorney.