As a divorce attorney and practicing in affluent counties including Howard, Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Baltimore and surrounding areas, I get the opportunity to see the leading causes of divorce. People often think about adultery, abandonment and growing apart as leading causes of divorce. I disagree. What I see are personality disorders and other diagnosable illnesses as the cause of the vast majority of divorces. I include domestic violence, as much domestic violence stems, in part, from mental health challenges.
And I am here to tell you that the Court system is incredibly poorly equipped to deal with mental health disorders that pervade family law situations.
Okay, I do not have the official statistics. I think it would actually be a Federal crime to attempt to survey the issue.
But this is something that every competent divorce attorney knows or should know, as we see it in our practices every single day.
Of course, you see it, too, since you live(d) with someone who has a mental health disorder that has resulted in your breakup or divorce.
So, what do you do if your spouse or partner has one of the dozens of mental health infirmities, and it is wreaking havoc within your house?
First, get a consult with a highly experienced family law attorney with decades of experience in mental health issues within divorce. These issues are difficult to handle in the Court system, because judges rarely can hear two spouses testify and then reach the conclusion that one of them has a mental health issue that is causing problems to the family. Often, judges need evidence, and that evidence can be difficult to obtain. A highly experienced divorce attorney will know how to find that evidence.
Second, get to a mental health therapist yourself, even just a consult, to describe what you are witnessing from your significant other, so that the therapist can provide you with more information and strategies to make your life better.
Fair warning to all–if you allege the other party has a mental infirmity, but the judge disagrees, guess who the judge is going to lash out at? You guessed it–you!
Remember, judges are not therapists any more than judges are mathematicians! The only way judges learn information is through witnesses’ testimony, as well as the documents submitted into evidence in a case. And not all evidence is accepted by courts. I could start a 50 blog series on trial evidence, and maybe I will at some future date.
What I want you to take away from this blog is that mental health is a minefield requiring you to interview and hire the most experienced divorce attorney you can. You must also hire an attorney who understands how judges think about mental issues. Some judges are very attuned to mental health issues. Many are not.
We all think that judges are supposed to figure out “the right thing to do,” in cases. It is just not so simple.