Divorce in Missouri If Your Spouse Has Mental Problems

by Anna Assad

Your spouse's mental health problems may affect some aspects of your divorce case in Missouri. Although state law in Missouri doesn't recognize a specific divorce ground related to a spouse's mental health, her condition may impact custody decisions, child support and spousal support awards.

Custody

Legal custody gives you the right to make decisions for your child and also means the child resides with you. Missouri law requires the court to evaluate certain factors when deciding physical and legal custody. These factors include the child's wishes, parent's wishes and which parent will more likely meet the child's basic needs. A judge also considers the mental health of both parents and the child's safety. Your mentally ill spouse may not receive custody of your child in the divorce because of her mental health and the potential threat posed to the child's safety or sense of stability. However, the court may award your spouse visitation, which is court-ordered time with the child, but may require the visitation to be supervised by another adult. The judge will look at any history of physical violence or threatening behavior your spouse has exhibited, even if it is a result of her condition, when deciding custody and visitation.

Spousal Maintenance

The court may award your mentally ill spouse maintenance during your divorce proceedings. Maintenance, called "alimony" in some states, is a monetary award paid by one spouse to the other for financial support. Missouri law provides for maintenance to a spouse who can't support herself through employment. The award amount is calculated by the judge based on various circumstances, including how much you earn, standard of living you and your spouse enjoyed prior to the divorce, and your spouse’s income and emotional state. The court may order maintenance for an indefinite time or may set a specific termination date.

Child Support

Under Missouri law, the court must look at various factors when formulating a child support award. These include the needs of the child and financial resources and needs of both parents. The judge may order your mentally ill spouse to pay child support if you receive custody of your child during the divorce. The child support amount is calculated based on the income of both parents, but the judge may deviate from the guidelines if he finds the award amount would be inappropriate or unjust. If your spouse's condition interferes with her ability to earn an income, the judge may reduce or eliminate her support obligation.

Guardian

If your spouse has a guardian because of her mental condition, the guardian may file for legal separation or divorce on her behalf if the guardian has evidence you abused your spouse. Missouri law authorizes the guardian to file the action on behalf of a ward and to testify in court about the allegations of spousal abuse described in the court papers.