While divorce is an emotionally difficult process under the best of circumstances, divorcing a bipolar spouse can be especially traumatic. This is true even if you have tried everything you can to help your spouse deal with this form of mental illness, with little to no results. If you’ve decided that nothing is going to change and the marriage cannot be salvaged, here are some things to keep in mind.
First, it is important to make the best use of any documentation you have in hand that builds a case for the divorce action. Any incidences of extreme mood swings, extended bouts of depression, alternating periods of extreme frugality and wild extravagance, should be noted for the divorce action itself. If your spouse has been under the care of a professional for bipolar disorder, make note of that as well. Tell your attorney everything that comes to mind, and provide documentation to back up that data. A good attorney who understands the effects of bipolar disorder on relationships can identify the most appropriate way to present the information, while still protecting the privacy of both you and your spouse as much as possible.
Second, make it clear that the marriage is over, and there is no hope for reconciliation. Depending on the current emotional state of your spouse, this declaration may be met with everything from complete apathy to giddy happiness to pleas for another chance. As you learned during the course of the marriage, things can change overnight when someone is dealing with a bipolar disorder. For this reason, you must be the one who is consistent and unwavering, if there is any chance of the divorce proceeding with a minimum of delays.
Don’t be surprised if your spouse attempts to find ways to block the divorce. The strategies can range from simply avoiding being served with the divorce papers to filing legal action of his or her own. By anticipating these possibilities, you and your attorney can be prepared to meet the challenges, and often derail them before they can slow things down to any significant degree.
If children are involved, seeing to their needs is a must. Unless the laws in your jurisdiction make it impossible, always include custody arrangements in the divorce petition itself. This will prevent the need for a second round of legal action with your ex-spouse, and also make it possible to establish now rather than later where the children will permanently reside, and what rights and responsibilities are assigned to the non-custodial parent. Doing so will allow the children to begin adapting to the new circumstances sooner, and possibility minimize the degree of trauma they experience.
Even as the petition is filed and the process is underway, you need to pay some attention to your emotional status. This means you should get some counseling yourself. Chances are you have some emotional scars from the marriage that need to be addressed and allowed to heal before you can really move on with your life. Initiating the therapy now will make it easier to function during the divorce proceedings, and deal with whatever comes your way. All too often, this type of self-care is overlooked until after the divorce is granted, something that is not in your best interests over the long term.