bipolar mental illness and divorce

For most people, divorce is challenging, emotional and complicated. However, when you are dealing with mental illness or a bipolar spouse in divorce, typically, the process is even more difficult.

What Does Bipolar Mean?

According to WebMD bipolar refers to a mental illness also called manic-depression where the individual experiences severe high and low mood swings along with changes in sleep, energy, thinking and behavior. The extremes go from overly happy and energized to sad, hopeless and sluggish.

What If Your Spouse Never Acted Like This During Early Marriage?

According to Stephanie Burchell, Ph.D. licensed marriage and family therapist in Dallas, Texas, “What we more commonly associate with bi-polar disorder, such as the extreme mood swings and dramatic shifts between manic and depressive behavior, is sometimes not present until a major life crisis triggers a full blown episode of mania. Thus, it’s very common for milder cases of the illness to delay an accurate diagnosis.” She also says, “the emotional strain and stress associated with divorce has been associated with triggering the onset of a severe manic episode or relapse of some sort.”

She also advises that being consistent in the message given to your spouse throughout the divorce process is very important. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed.

Ideas for Detaching

Mandy Walker, who is a Divorce Coach and Divorce Mediator in Colorado encourages clients to engage in what she calls loving detachment. You can detach by:

  • Recognizing this is a process and will take time
  • Considering how to help your spouse be more self-sufficient
  • Building a parenting plan that keeps your spouse as actively involved with your children as is safe and feasible
  • Not holding your spouse’s condition against them to penalize or harm them

The Practical and Legal Needs When Dealing with a Bipolar Spouse in Divorce

Discuss with your lawyer the legal steps you should take to protect your rights, finances and property. Should you close accounts? Should you safeguard important legal documents? Consult with a divorce lawyer early on during the divorce process and make sure the actions you take are legally sound.

C.E. Borman & Associates is a law firm that helps people with estate planning, probate, family law, divorce and other related issues.