Divorce isn’t easy. You have to agree on difficult topics like custody of children and division of property, all while dealing with painful emotions. A mental incapacity divorce in California complicates things even further. It’s not enough to show that your spouse acts erratically or irrationally; they have to fit very specific criteria for you to qualify for a mental incapacity divorce.

In California, you need to fulfill quite a few legal requirements to seek divorce due to the mental incapacitation of your spouse. However, if your spouse truly qualifies for this type of divorce, there is a way forward. And, since the mental incapacity divorce process was designed to handle a divorce with an incapacitated party, this will ultimately make your divorce experience much easier. After all, trying to negotiate with a mentally unsound person about a visitation schedule or division of assets can be almost impossible. With that in mind, here’s what you should know about seeking a mental incapacity divorce in California.

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What Is a Mental Incapacity Divorce in California?

You can decide to divorce your spouse for many reasons in California, including the catch-all term “irreconcilable differences.”  Mental incapacity constitutes one of the reasons for making a petition for divorce. In this type of divorce, the marriage must end because the filing spouse finds it impossible to continue their relationship with the mentally incapacitated person.

The court needs to validate the evidence of mental incompetence before approving the dissolution of marriage in cases like this. As a filling spouse, you must provide substantial evidence to prove that your partner lacks mental competence.

Qualifying for a Mental Incapacity Divorce

It is rare to use mental incapacity as grounds for divorce because of these two factors. However, if you fulfill the requirements, the court can approve your ground for divorce, and you can go through incapacity divorce actions designed for cases like yours. This section explains how you can tell if your divorce qualifies and how mental illness and divorce are handled in court.

Qualifying Conditions for a Mental Incapacity Divorce in California

Mental incapacity is a health issue and can occur at any point in your marriage. Mental health issues can arise for a variety of reasons, including genetic predisposition, injury, illness, or trauma. However, to qualify for a mental incapacity divorce, the condition must be irreversible and substantiated by more than one medical professional.

Health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may impact someone’s mental health, for instance. Another example is an injury that reduces cognitive ability, especially if the head injuries seriously affect the brain. Keep in mind that the incapacity must be permanent; a temporarily incapacitated party (such as someone recovering from an acute illness or injury) won’t qualify.

Will My Mental Incapacity Divorce Be Approved?

Mental incapacity divorce

You can only use mental incapacity as the grounds for divorce action when the court approves it. First, there is a three-year waiting period from the first time the mental incapacitation was confirmed. Then, to begin the divorce, a panel of at least three medical professionals must closely assess the person.

If the court establishes that the person suffers from a mental issue that isn’t so severe, the judge won’t permit its use as a merit for divorce. Similarly, if there’s no substantial evidence to declare that your partner is mentally incapacitated, you could easily lose the divorce petition.

Also, keep in mind that mental incapacitation can happen before or during the marriage. Before legally ending a marriage, the judge needs to determine the date of mental incapacitation. Divorce laws state that if someone was already incapacitated at the time of marriage (meaning they had not legally consented to get married), the court must annul the marriage rather than proceeding with a divorce filing.

In other words, a mental incapacity divorce process is only approved if a) experts and the court agree that your spouse is permanently mentally incapacitated and b) they became mentally incapacitated after the formalization of their marriage.

Mental Incapacity and Marriage Annulment

What if your spouse experienced mental incompetence before the marriage and has stayed that way? In that case, annulment of the marriage is the best option. The person with the mental health issues might have entered the marriage without full knowledge of what they were doing, making the marriage void.

A legally incapacitated person is considered unable to make decisions such as marrying, entering into contracts, or making economic or medical decisions. A person who is legitimately incapable of making decisions has deficits relating to:

  • Performance and focus
  • Data processing (such as communication or remembering things)
  • Cognitive processes (e.g. has hallucinations or getting confused)
  • Ability to regulate their emotions and reactions

If you think this applies in your case, simply submit a petition for annulment to the court. You can justify the annulment of the marriage relationship if you prove to the court that it wasn’t valid in the first place.

How Does Mental Incapacity Affect Divorce Issues?

Property division, custody of children, and child support fill divorce and legal separation with difficult decisions even for mentally sound individuals. The issue of mental incapacitation makes everything even more complex. Your partner’s mental incapacitation significantly affects how the court sets up the divorce process and makes a final judgment. In many cases, someone’s level of mental disability determines the affected aspects of divorce.

During the divorce, a blood relative or guardian of the incapacitated party appears in court. They protect the personal interest of the spouse with mental health conditions during their legal representation in court. In situations where the incapacitated spouse doesn’t have a guardian, the court appoints one for the sake of the divorce proceedings. This means that you’ll be making arrangements on the following topics with this representative rather than directly with the incapacitated person.

Spousal Support and Division of Assets

Depending on your circumstances, a mental health issue may increase or lower your spouse’s allocation of the marital estate. Mental issues may also limit your spouse’s ability to pay their living expenses. Therefore, once the judge determines that your mental health limits your spouse’s ability to work, they may grant your incapacitated spouse alimony or a larger portion of the marital assets. It’s important to remember, however, that someone’s mental health issues won’t give them immunity against meeting child support obligations.

Don’t worry; this doesn’t always work out against the filing spouse. For example, what if the judge decides that your partner’s untreated mental health condition was the main reason for divorce? In that case, they may increase alimony for the healthy spouse or other support awards.

Custody Issues

As parents, you have the legal duty to give your children financial, physical, and emotional support no matter your mental health status.  Concerning child custody, the judge assesses the prevailing circumstances in your family and determines the best custody arrangement for your children.

If one of the parents has a severe mental issue, the chances of that person obtaining child custody are low. However, a parent’s mental capacity is only one issue that the judge considers when making informed decisions about child custody. Other issues that could also play a part in determining a child’s best custody arrangement include:

  • The physical and emotional health of each parent
  • The ability of a parent to meet the child’s needs
  • The age and developmental status of the child
  • The existing parent-child relationship
  • A history of domestic violence from either parent
  • The child’s willingness to adjust to school and community environment
  • Each parent’s readiness to allow the child to continue relating well with the other parent

Do You Need Help with Mental Incapacity Divorce?

Mental incapacity divorce

Mental health issues and divorce make a difficult combination. If you as the spouse claimant can prove your incompetent spouse meets the legal requirements for mental incapacity, however, you may want to forge ahead. The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a divorce attorney to start the process. Instead, an affordable legal document assistant can help you file the correct forms completely, saving you time and money.

A People’s Choice is the best place to seek assistance with any divorce issue or other civil court issue. We can help you locate the correct forms and complete them, but we charge very little compared to a family law attorney. With us, you can process matters such as conservatorship, probate, divorce, adoption, and more at an affordable cost. Just contact us at 800-747-2780, and we’ll connect you with the help you need for your mental incapacity divorce.