Can You Divorce your Spouse with Mental Illness?

In a society like India, marriage is a grand and a sacred affair. Almost everyone has some or the other dream person that they wish to marry into. But, all these dreams get shattered once it is realised discovered, that the person they have married to is not of sound mind or is a victim of mental illness. Mental illness unlike physical illness cannot be seen. It can only be felt through the gestures, actions or behaviour of the other person.

Who is a person suffering from mental illness?

Mental illness is a broad umbrella which consists of many small different disorders. A person suffering from mental illness is not capable of making rational day to day choices, let alone live and fulfil all the duties of a married life.

How to divorce a mentally ill person?

It can be very challenging to live with a person suffering from mental illness. A lot of people when they get to know about their spouse’s mental illness, look for separation. For any person, divorce is never easy as it takes a lot of toll on a person’s well-being but divorcing a mentally ill spouse is even more difficult and challenging than divorcing a healthy one.

Some of the common mental illnesses are anxiety and panic attacks, bipolar disorders, personality disorders, depression, drug and alcohol addiction, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Schizophrenia etc. and many other mental illnesses are not even in common knowledge.

India being a country of diverse culture and traditions has laws for both marriage rituals as well as for divorce. Keeping the secularism in mind, customised laws have been made for different religions. One such law is called the Hindu Marriage Act, which caters to rules for a valid marriage and its dissolution for all persons who are not Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew.

Divorce under Hindu Marriage Act

Insanity: The Hindu marriage act has provided many such circumstances under which a person can seek divorce from their spouse, one such being insanity. As per the law, a person suffering from insanity is basically the one who is incurable of unsound mind or who has been suffering from continuous or periodic mental disorder to such an extent that the person cannot reasonably be expected to live with them.

Physical or Mental Cruelty: Apart from insanity, other grounds that can be pleaded as a ground for divorce from a mentally ill person is cruelty.

Cruelty includes both mental and physical; a person who under the influence of mental illness, beats or causes any bodily injury to their spouse is liable under physical cruelty.

Any person who, mentally tortures or verbally abuses the other spouse is liable under mental cruelty.

Personality disorders: A lot of people suffer from personality disorders. Most of the time, this kind of mental illness goes undetected or without any treatment or help as people do not realise the intensity until it’s too late. Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, etc are some examples of mental illness which commonly causes personality disorders.

Alcohol or substance abuse: A lot of people get addicted to drug and alcohol, many times before getting any help. Most of the times, emotional burdens or stress drives people towards this kind of abuse. Many people suffering from this kind of mental disorder usually become a burden on their family. They even resort to cruelty whether physical or mental upon not only the spouse but also on the children and other family members too. Any person who even tries to help them get out of this abuse, they even lash out on them.

How to divorce someone suffering from mental illness?

  1. Consulting an advocate: The foremost step, is consulting an advocate and getting to know your options. One must make sure that their decision to divorce has been a sought-through one, as divorce is a tedious process.
  2. Getting professional help for yourself: Divorce takes a huge mental toll in a person’s life, for which getting professional help through therapy is very crucial. A therapist can also help the person on how to deal with a mentally ill spouse.
  3. Wait for them to settle down: Every mentally ill person has their ups and downs, having good and the bad days. A person should try to approach their spouse for divorce talks when they are comparatively stable or in a state of mind to take reasonable and fair decisions.
  4. Not feeling guilty: The thought of divorce brings a lot of emotions to the mind. A person might not want to leave their partner, but might be forced to do so for their own physical and mental safety.
  5. Keeping the divorce process friendly: Divorces usually get messy as both the spouses have their own demands and understanding about marriage and life. A person must be open to talk about the differences and respect the other person’s opinions as well.
  6. Filing the divorce process and or child custody: The most important part of divorce is filing the divorce papers while stating the grounds or reasons for which the person is seeking divorce from their spouse. If a person has children from the marriage, it is also important to file paperwork for the child custody as well.

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