How Does the Mental Health of a Spouse Impact a Colorado Divorce?

How Does the Mental Health of a Spouse Impact a Colorado Divorce?Colorado considers mental health when deciding on divorce-related issues like child custody and decision making issues, however, when it comes to the division of property, mental health is generally not an issue. 

While a spouse may file for divorce on the basis of the other spouse’s mental condition in several states, Colorado does not allow this as Colorado is a “no-fault” divorce State. Thus, in Colorado spouses filing for divorce do not need to demonstrate any reason other than the fact that the marriage is irretrievably broken, in order to file for Divorce. 

Nonetheless, a spouse’s mental condition may impact divorce proceedings in a number of ways.

Divorce Matters That Might be Changed by Mental Illness

If you are getting a divorce, you and your spouse must come to agreements that are acceptable to both of you on each of the following:

  • The fair and equitable distribution of your marital property
  • Your terms for child custody (called parental responsibilities in Colorado)
  • Amount of child support
  • Amount of alimony (called spousal support in Colorado)

If one spouse has mental health problems, their condition can make discussions considerably more difficult, if not impossible. In fact, depending upon the severity of the mental health condition, the spouse experiencing the issue may need a Guardian Ad Litem to help them make the correct decisions within their case. Divorcing couples are far more likely to request the court to issue divorce terms on their behalf in such a case. Colorado is a no-fault divorce state, which means that guilt – such as a spouse’s infidelity or emotional abuse – will not be considered by the court when deciding property division terms. Yet, a spouse’s mental health concerns may impact the terms of the separation in the ways described below.

Child Custody and Parental Responsibilities

When the court makes key decisions regarding who the children will live with after the divorce and what visitation plans will be enacted, it always considers the children’s best interests. If a divorcing spouse is facing mental health issues that may impair his or her capacity to give the children the care and support they require, child custody arrangements may be affected.

If a spouse’s mental health problems render them an unsafe or unfit parent, the court may award sole custody to the other parent and impose a limited visitation schedule which enables the children to keep on seeing their other parent without unnecessary pressure on his or her mental health – or compromising their safety in any way.

Maintenance (Alimony)

Maintenance or spousal support is a statutory guideline in the State of Colorado and is not guaranteed. 

Mental health problems may play a role in evaluating whether a spouse is qualified for Maintenance based upon their “need” as defined within the statute. If a spouse’s issues with mental health have made it impossible for them to work or if they require continued treatment or care, this may influence whether or not they are granted alimony and how much they get.

Child Support

Child support is the state’s means to ensure that both parents, including parents with mental health challenges, continue to financially provide for their children after a divorce. If one spouse’s capacity to earn a living is substantially impaired by his or her mental health, the amount of child support payments he or she is obliged to make may be affected.

The Division of Marital Property

The equitable division of marital property refers to a distribution that is fair in light of the circumstances, and a spouse’s mental health issues are factored in. If a spouse’s mental health impairs their capacity to produce an income or handle finances, the equitable allocation of marital property may be affected such that they receive a disproportionate share of the estate in order to mitigate any spousal support that may be paid.

For example, if one spouse’s mental health concerns have kept them from working or have resulted in financial mismanagement, this may play a role in how assets are distributed in the divorce.

Domestic Violence or Abuse

Mental health issues can sometimes rise to charges of domestic violence or abuse. If one spouse has a history of mental illness and aggressive conduct, the court may be required to implement protective measures for the other spouse and any children involved in the case.

Specialists Recommended

Problems with mental health can intensify conflict and make it more difficult for spouses to communicate properly and work together to achieve an agreement throughout the divorce process. In such circumstances, the court may recommend or require mental health specialists, such as counselors or mediators, to assist the spouses in navigating the divorce process.

If mental health difficulties are a concern in your divorce case, it is critical that you consult with an experienced family law attorney who can help you through these difficult situations.

Speak with a Skilled Colorado Family Law Attorney

If you are getting divorced and mental illness will most certainly be a factor, you have a rough road ahead of you. The skilled Colorado family law attorneys at Goldman Law have the experience, motivation, and empathy to assist. To learn more, please contact us today at (303) 656-9529.