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Mental Health And Tennessee Divorce


Every family is impacted by mental health in some way. If you have built a family with an individual suffering from mental health issues, you have experienced first hand what a destructive effect that can take on the family. Under Tennessee law the mental health of individuals can affect decisions in divorce and custody cases. This article aims to provide a general overview of how mental health issues can affect divorcing couples in Tennessee. For specific advice tailored to your own situation, please contact an experienced family law attorney, such as the experienced team at Fort, Holloway & Rogers.

Mental Illness and Divorce Grounds

Tennessee recognizes the following as legitimate reasons, or “grounds” to divorce:

  • adultery
  • impotency
  • bigamy
  • imprisonment for a felony offense
  • murder/attempted murder of the spouse
  • willful desertion of 1+ year
  • willful separation of 2+ years
  • chronic alcohol abuse or habitual substance abuse
  • cruel and inhuman treatment of spouse
  • extreme neglect of spouse

It is possible for one spouse to raise a defense of insanity to guard against allegations raised by the other spouse in the divorce. For example, a spouse can state that they were insane during the time they treated the other spouse with extreme negligence. Raising these defenses does not stop a divorce itself from moving forward, but can protect an individual against claims arising from the treatment.

Mental Health and Child Custody

The mental and emotional health and wellbeing of a parent will always play a role in child custody cases. During the course of the child custody hearings you should expect the court to assess both parent’s mental health and ability to provide any minor children with a healthy and stable home environment. The court will always endeavor to make decisions based on furthering the best interests of the child, regardless of the needs or desires of the parents.

In extreme instances, where the court is provided with clear and convincing evidence that a parent is unfit AND the court finds that it is in the child’s best interest, the court can terminate parental rights. Some scenarios that could result in the termination of parental rights include instances of abandonment, abuse, and mental incompetency leading to inadequate care or supervision of the child.

Spousal Support and Mental Health

Issues of mental health can affect obligations to provide spousal support payments post divorce. A spouse who is found to have a severe mental health issue would likely be expected to earn less money and may be successful in pursuing alimony payments. A mentally incapacitated parent should not, however, be under the impression that their mental illness excuses them from making child support payments. Even when a mentally ill individual is unemployed, a court can act to garnish the individual’s social security or disability benefit payments in order to pay the owed child support.

Contact Fort, Holloway & Rogers

Mental health struggles will leave different impacts on every relationship. If you or a loved one is in the midst of a divorce and dealing with mental health issues, or the mental health issues of a spouse, you owe it to yourself to receive the best legal advice possible to help you land on the best solutions for yourself and your family. Contact the experienced Franklin family law attorneys at For, Holloway &N Rogers to schedule a consultation.


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