Divorce and Mental Health

Updated on 06/15/2022 / Under

Parental divorce or separation can cause depression, mental health disorders, and lack of life satisfaction, especially after the divorce process is finalized. Spouses who don’t take care of their mental health during divorce are often left feeling angry, sad, lonely, helpless, or even ambivalent towards their future relationships.

It may be difficult for someone to take care of their mental health during the divorce process because of their inability to manage negative emotions or restore emotional composure. The negative impact of divorce can cause anxiety, distress, depression, and even lead to suicide. Thus, it’s essential to understand and know how to deal with the emotional long-term effects of divorce and mental health.

Can You Divorce Your Spouse if They have a Mental Illness?

When preparing for divorce, the requesting party must state the “grounds” for divorce--or reason for the dissolution of the couple’s marriage. If a spouse is seeking a divorce from their partner based on fault grounds, they must prove abuse, neglect, incurable insanity, adultery, abandonment, or other fault grounds recognized by their state.

However, getting a no-fault divorce is typically a simpler process and doesn’t require you to prove the cause of your divorce. Every state recognizes “no-fault” grounds where a couple can get divorced because of irreconcilable differences that led to their marriage’s breakdown.

But, if you’re filing for a divorce because of your spouse’s severe mental health issues, you need to file for a fault-based divorce. Based on the circumstances of your marriage, you could be entitled to a larger share of marital property or a higher spousal support award if you can prove your spouse’s mental health issues caused your marriage’s breakdown. If you’re unsure whether a fault or no-fault divorce is the right option for your situation, contact a Chicago family law attorney for legal advice.

divorce and mental health

In criminal cases, insanity can be a legal defense to certain criminal charges. However, these criminal procedures aren’t applicable in divorce cases. You or your spouse can’t avoid a divorce by pleading you’re mentally ill. A spouse’s serious mental health conditions may entitle them to additional protections under the law, especially if that spouse is living in a mental health facility. In many states, a family court judge will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent a spouse who has severe mental health issues or is living in a mental health care facility to ensure that their legal interests are represented in a divorce.

How Do I Know if My Wife is Mentally Ill?

If your marriage is characterized by repetitious arguments, lengthy withdrawals from the relationship, unfounded accusations, unwillingness or inability to discuss important family matters, and/or standoffs between the two of you continue despite your efforts to engage your spouse, you must consider the possibility that serious problems exist.

Also, excesses in behaviors are warning signs of mental illness—being obsessed with ritual cleanliness, staying up all night and being unable to function the next, withdrawing completely from sexual contact, and excessive drinking or drugging are some examples of problematic behavior. When problems like this persist in your marriage despite repeated attempts to identify and discuss issues that bother your partner, It’s a sign that something other than marital conflicts are occurring.

Divorce and Mental Health in Children

Divorce or legal separation may increase the risk for mental disorders among children and teenagers. Regardless of age, culture, and gender, kids of divorced parents experience increased negative psychological issues and physical health effects.

Parental divorce during childhood may set off a change disorder in kids that resolves within a few months. Also, studies have found anxiety and depression are higher in kids from divorced parents.

Further, children who experience interparental conflict are likely to experience externalizing problems, including conduct disorders, impulsive behavior, and delinquency compared to kids from intact families.

Besides increased behavioral problems, children from divorced families may also experience more conflict with peers after parental separation or divorce.

What are the Emotional Stages of a Divorce?

People experience five common emotions when going through a divorce and going through the process. These are often referred to as the five stages of grief and they include denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Also, these emotions may expand into more nuanced emotions that vary based on the circumstances of your divorce.


Spouses who didn’t start the divorce often spend a lot of their time in the denial stage. These may cause a delayed response to divorce papers. Denial provides comfort because it allows people to distance themselves from the devastating reality.


Both spouses go through the anger stage, which is characterized by rage, blame, and cynically dissecting events in your marriage. Often people suppress their emotions while in denial, and this causes emotions to erupt when they evolve to this next phase.

Our Chicago divorce attorneys are here to help you through this difficult process.

During this stage, it’s crucial to be patient with yourself, and encourage your former spouse to do the same. Otherwise, anger can become consuming. In this stage, it’s common for spouses to make hostile and vindictive decisions. To best serve the interests of your children, give yourself time to cope with the stress of the family conflict so you don’t make decisions based on emotions.


The spouse who starts the divorce process is often surprised that they struggle with the bargaining stage. They often battle with doubt and guilt. As they weigh their odds, it makes them question their decision and analyze the repercussions. Thus, going back and forth during the bargaining stage is common.


Typically, this stage often lasts longer, and it’s the most difficult time during the divorce process. At this point, the reality of the situation has dawned on both sides. This wave of understanding is often debilitating and overwhelming. During a depressed mood, you need to lean on your support system and accept help when offered. Also, it’s crucial to seek counseling for your children if they’re also struggling with depression. For all parties involved, an experienced therapist can be a worthy investment in long-term healing.


Most spouses find what they consider peace during this stage. Beyond dealing with their new reality, they embrace it with hope for the future. During this phase, you may still experience some negative feelings. Also, it’s common at this phase to revisit briefly one of the previous stages. However, at this point, you’re no longer consumed by those strong negative emotions. Though you aren’t getting your old life back, you feel a sense of joy, which allows you to reclaim some of your old self. Welcoming the oncoming changes is empowering.

Whether you’re the initiator or on the receiving end of the divorce paperwork, you’ll go through some of these stages of grief. It’s essential to understand that it’s normal and allow yourself time to move through each stage.

If you’re contemplating getting a divorce or if your spouse has served you with divorce papers, you will need an experienced Chicago divorce lawyer on your side. At the Ktenas Law, our team of dedicated and experienced Chicago divorce attorneys works tirelessly to help our clients to pursue the best possible outcomes for their divorce and family law cases. To speak with someone on our legal team and schedule a free initial consultation, call us today at (312) 756-8652, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.