Divorce When Your Ex has Bipolar Disorder
When you are married to someone with bipolar disorder, it can sometimes feel as if every day hinges on how well your partner is managing his or her symptoms. Your spouse’s moods may vacillate between debilitating depression and frantic energy. Over time, the ongoing strain of this situation may be too much for the marriage to handle. Divorce is never easy and having to go through it with a bipolar partner, can make the process less predictable and more stressful. Although divorce when your ex has bipolar disorder may be difficult, there are ways to protect yourself.
Preparing for the Worst
Divorce is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through, and this added pressure may make your ex’s symptoms worse than usual. Although it is possible your ex will not have extreme behaviors due during your divorce, it is important to be prepared. If you have not seen your ex under extreme stress, it may be difficult to predict how he or she may react. However, you can consider his or her past symptoms as some indication of what may occur. Depending on the type of bipolar disorder and extent of his or her symptoms, your ex may become suicidal, homicidal, psychotic, make threats towards you or your children, damage your property, come to your home or children’s school, make excessive purchases with your community credit or funds, or engage in other reckless behaviors.
If you are leaving the relationship because your ex has become abusive or made threats to harm you or your children, you need to contact the police and take immediate steps to get protective measures in place. Wisconsin courts take domestic violence seriously and you and your family law attorney can work together to request a domestic abuse restraining order and other necessary orders to ensure the safety of you and your family members.
Financial and Credit Health
When parties are going through a divorce, community assets are to be identified and maintained until they can be divided. When a person has bipolar disorder, he or she may make outlandish purchases on credit or spend community assets. If your spouse has spent your joint funds in this manner in the past, you may need to ask the court to place certain community assets into a constructive trust pending the outcome of the equitable distribution of the marital estate. Further, you may also have a basis for asking that you be awarded more of the marital estate if your ex has committed marital waste. Additionally, during the divorce, it would be advisable to put a lock on your credit so that your spouse will not be able to make any purchases using your information. You and your attorney may also need to ask the court to issue specific orders regarding the use of credit cards and financial assets during the case.
Child Placement and Custody
The family court has to examine proposed parenting plan terms to assess whether or not they are in the best interest of a child. This examination will include custodial rights and placement. In addition to numerous other factors, Wisconsin family court can evaluate whether the mental health of a parent living in a proposed custodial household “negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being.” When there is evidence that your ex’s bipolar symptoms have endangered you or your children, the court can limit his or her custodial and placement rights. In more serious cases, the court may award one parent primary placement and sole custody, and only permit the other parent supervised time with the children.
Getting Through the Case
Depending on the circumstances and your ex’s behavior, you may or may not be able to reason with them. If you are unable to negotiate, you will probably end up having to go to court to finalize your divorce. If you are able to take steps toward settlement, it may take longer since you cannot guarantee that your ex will show up mentally prepared to conduct themselves in a lucid manner. These issues may result in your case taking longer to conclude.
Going through a divorce when your ex has bipolar disorder can be an ordeal, but it is possible to prepare and protect yourself, your family and your interests during the process. At First Look Family Law, Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience assisting clients during divorce and can help you evaluate your circumstances and determine your next steps. Contact us and let’s schedule an appointment to take a “first look” at your situation and figure out what works best for you.