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Special considerations for mental illness in Michigan family law

Mental illness can put tremendous stress on families, and for some, it might be the breaking point. If a spouse feels at risk or genuinely unhappy because of a significant other's ongoing mental health issues, ending the marriage can be an understandably healthy decision. However, there are family law implications in Michigan that can affect how the divorce may proceed.

Mental illness is a catch-all phrase that may apply to many different things. For some their mental illness may be depression or anxiety, while others suffer from an addiction for which they are genetically predisposed. These illnesses are wide and varied, and have different effects on the sufferer and his or her marriage. Regardless, Michigan does not allow for divorce filings based on either substance abuse or mental illness. Couples can still file for divorce based on other grounds.

In some instances, alimony may be affected by a spouse with a substance abuse problem. This could mean that one spouse might be ordered to pay more or less depending on the situation. A 2008 Michigan Court of Appeals ruling made it clear that alimony can be based on whatever is most reasonable and just for each couple's unique situations.

Substance abuse or mental illness can heavily impact how child custody is handled. Since family law courts focus on whatever is in the best interest of the child, a parent dealing with a serious health issue might be a contending factor. When a divorcing couple is also dealing with serious mental illnesses, it is important to understand how family law applies.

Source:, "Mental Illness, Addiction, and Divorce: Know Your Rights", Stephen Bitsoli, Nov. 8, 2017

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