Legal Insanity

Mental Health and Grounds for Divorce

In California, a spouse seeking a divorce doesn’t have to prove that the other spouse caused the divorce; this is called “no-fault divorce.” However, in specific circumstances, a spouse can seek a divorce based on the other spouse’s mental illness. California courts can dissolve a marriage on the grounds that a spouse is permanently unable to make decisions, known as “legal incapacity.” Legal incapacity is a determination that a person is of unsound mind and lacks the ability to make decisions such as getting married, entering into contracts, making medical decisions, or executing wills or trusts. A person who is legally incapable of making decisions has deficits in one or more of the following categories:

  • alertness and attention
  • information processing (such as memory or communication problems)
  • thought processes (like delusions or hallucinations)
  • ability to modulate mood and affect

A spouse seeking a divorce for legal incapacity must prove that the other spouse permanently lacked the capacity to make decisions at the time of the divorce filing. The judge will require the testimony or statement of multiple mental health professionals to determine whether the spouse in question suffers from mental illness to the extent that spouse is legally incapable of making decisions.