Making the decision to end your marriage is always a difficult process. This decision can be made even more complex if your soon-to-be ex-spouse suffers from untreated or insufficiently-treated bipolar disorder and you have minor children together. Without laying the proper framework before filing for divorce, you may find yourself mounting a pricey legal battle simply to secure your parental rights against a spouse who will use custody and child support as a tool to control you. What should you know before filing for divorce from a spouse with bipolar disorder? Read on to learn more about the steps you may need to take to avoid years of expensive litigation.
What are some risks specific to divorcing a spouse with bipolar disorder?
While many divorces can be acrimonious (particularly if a breach of trust is involved), there are some special considerations whenever divorcing a spouse whose bipolar disorder is not adequately treated. In many cases, the stress of divorce itself can be enough to trigger a manic rage or depressive state that can last for weeks or even months.
Depending upon how your spouse's bipolar disorder manifests itself after you announce your intent to file for divorce, you could find yourself facing wild accusations and attempts to limit contact with your children. In other situations, you could instead be dealing with a spouse who refuses to leave the comfort of bed and allows you to shoulder all parenting and household duties for the foreseeable future.
What should you do before filing for divorce?
Encourage your spouse to seek treatment
Even if the marriage is irreparably broken, by seeking treatment for his or her bipolar disorder, your spouse will be a better co-parent to your children. Convincing those with bipolar disorder to seek out medication that will help improve mental and emotional function can be a challenge -- often, after living with these mood swings for a lifetime, someone whose bipolar disorder is managed with medication may feel like life is boring or uninteresting. However, by making efforts to ensure your spouse receives the treatment he or she needs, your conscience will be clear and you'll be able to demonstrate to the court that you did all you could to ensure the security and safety of your children.
Document any erratic behavior
Unfortunately, there may be little you can do to keep your soon-to-be ex-spouse from having inappropriate outbursts or engaging in other erratic behavior after you share your plans to file for divorce. However, by documenting this behavior through a written diary, saving threatening text messages or emails, or even creating a video or audio recording of your soon-to-be ex-spouse on a rampage, you'll help provide your attorney with adequate evidence to rebut any argument that you shouldn't have at least equal parenting time. In some cases, your soon-to-be ex-spouse's documented behavior may be so severe that it could warrant the award of sole physical and legal custody to you.
Decide which assets you'd like to keep -- and which are worth leaving
As you may have already observed during your marriage, those with bipolar disorder can sometimes have trouble holding down a steady job. Whether due to long depressive periods where it is difficult for the individual to get out of bed (or make it to work on time) or a manic period where the individual crashes and burns in a very public way, maintaining steady employment can be a challenge.
Those with bipolar disorder can also be vulnerable to spending sprees during manic phases, generally with little thought to the affordability of the items purchased. If you have joint finances, you may want to take steps to untangle them before filing for divorce, therefore preventing your soon-to-be ex-spouse from liquidating your accounts.
You'll also want to take an inventory of your current assets and debts to determine which you'd like to keep and which you're willing to sacrifice. It's generally a good idea to split all assets at the time of divorce (rather than waiting for a house to sell or accepting a stake in your ex-spouse's future pension or retirement account) simply due to the tenuous financial situation. You don't want to rely upon an asset or source of income that may not be available in the future.
When you spouse has bipolar disorder, divorce can be even more complicated than usual. These tips will help make things easier, but you'll also want to work with an experienced divorce attorney. Click here for additional info on divorce attorneys in your area.