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Mental Illness: The Only Grounds For Divorce In Florida

What does it mean when we hear that Florida is a no-fault divorce state? Ordinarily, it means that either party may file for divorce without having to prove grounds. The courts recognize that if the marriage is irreparably broken for one party, it makes no legal sense to fight it to save it.

However, what happens when one of the parties suffers mental illness and lacks the capacity to participate in the decision to file. Under Florida law, mental illness is the ONLY time one spouse can file on grounds of "fault' based on mental incapacity of he other spouse.

What does the filing spouse have to prove?

Most people in divorce think their spouse is crazy. Florida family law courts expect more than just eratic behavior, however. The spouse filing for divorce on grounds of mental illness in Florida must demonstrate through medical records that the other spouse has been incapacitated by emotional or mental disability for a minimum of three years. The spouse must submit multiple examination reports that include the authorized opinions of the attending psychiatrists or medical professionals.

Who protects the rights of the spouse with mental illness?

In order to prevent one spouse from taking advantage of the incapacitated spouse who may be receiving treatment in a hospital, filing on the grounds of mental illness requires a higher level of legal protections. Someone over the age of 18 years of age must physically deliver the notice of intent to file directly to the incapacitated spouse, as well as the legal guardian or family member serving in the role of caregiver. The guardian or family caregiver may serve in the capacity of legal representative throughout the divorce or, in most cases, hire a Florida divorce lawyer on the patient's behalf.

Why file on grounds when no-fault is available?

Florida's no-fault divorce laws affect how property is divided between the spouses. In the case of filing on grounds of mental illness, however, the courts may take a different look at how property such as the family residence is to be divided. Certain assets may be deemed more important to go to the spouse with mental illness, while the filing spouse may argue for other property. The courts will still do everything possible to distribute the property equitably under the law, but the parameters may move to accommodate special needs of the parties.

Custody and parenting rights

When it comes to protecting the best interests of children in divorce, Florida courts place an emphasis on equal time sharing, whenever possible. In no-fault divorce cases, both parents will have equal right to fight for custody and equitable parenting time. In cases of mental illness, however, the filing spouse may have a stronger case to obtain custody and the majority of parenting time, particularly when the other spouse is in long-term treatment for the mental illness. Custody rights and visitation can be revisited when the mental illness has been effectively treated.

Hire a divorce lawyer who understands the law

If you are considering filing for divorce on the grounds of mental illness, don't make any assumptions about how the court will decide. Before you file, talk to an experienced Florida divorce attorney who can answer your questions about the pros and cons of filing on grounds, rather than no-fault. The right lawyer can help you get everything lined up so your divorce progresses as smoothly as possible.




ple examinations and the opinions of medical experts.

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