Divorce and Mental Wellbeing

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Stephen Williams, leading divorce lawyer, discusses the effects of divorce on the families mental wellbeing.

In a recent survey, 80% of mental health patients acknowledged the detrimental effects of their mental health condition on their family and the extra stress that their condition placed upon their loved ones.

The family can become isolated and vulnerable and family life can become unpredictable and disjointed affecting adults and children alike. Family members may well feel responsible in some way for the mental health problems of another. Feelings of anger and resentment may well emerge towards the person with the mental health problem and the devastation to the family can result in an unhealthy pattern of behaviour emerging between the sufferer and their family.

It is therefore unsurprising that in this situation relationships can breakdown and separation and divorce be contemplated.

There are many resources available nationally to families in such a crisis. Support such as counselling, therapy and practical self-help may be available but much will depend on the resources available in your area.

If the situation becomes one where separation is going to happen, the mental ill-health of one of the couple need not prevent concrete action to end the relationship from occurring.
If that person is thought to lack capacity to give cogent instructions, and divorce is being contemplated, a person called a “Litigation Friend” can be appointed to deal with the divorce on behalf of the mentally ill person. This is subject to medical confirmation that that person cannot deal with such matters themselves. If no such person is available to assist, as a last resort, the “Official Solicitor” can be appointed to act on behalf of the mentally unwell person.

Considerable thought needs to be given to the effect of a separation on the children of the family and both parents must co-operate as much as possible to ensure that the children do not experience feelings of rejection, uncertainty, anger and fear that are so common in these situations. The parents must make sure that their children are loved and cherished by them unconditionally and reassure them that none of what has happened is their responsibility. Likewise, the children must not be drawn into disputes or tangled up in the worries that the adults will have. Children will be best served by being reassured, cared for and loved in a situation where the parents are reliable, caring and consistent.

The ending of the relationship may well produce a situation in which tensions and problems between the adults are exacerbated and in this situation, it is all too easy to neglect to care for your mental health. Be proactive. Build supportive relationships with family and friends. Don’t be tempted to isolate yourself, talk through issues with others. Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle and try to maintain a good sleep pattern. Seek advice at an early stage from professionals who can help.

With the spotlight being rightly shone on mental health this year, this information mustn’t be forgotten. If your relationship has been affected by issues of mental ill-health and the stress of what may seem to be an increasingly impossible situation please call us to discuss what legal options you have on 0330 404 0776.

If the relationship has to end it is important to know what your financial position in the future is likely to be. We understand that no two situations are ever likely to be exactly alike and with our advice you can plan for a brighter tomorrow.

Please contact our family team for more information, to begin the process of a divorce or for support on 0330 404 0749 or email enquiry@ashtonslegal.co.uk.


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