Mental Health Issues and Family Law in California

divorce attorneysWhile mental health issues are more prominently discussed these days, there is still a lot of taboo surrounding these topics. On top of that, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and there is still much we don’t know about how things can go “wrong” inside the human brain.

This makes dealing with these issues particularly challenging, especially if you’re dealing with a spouse or partner who is exhibiting signs of mental health issues. These can range from addiction, anxious behaviors, hostility or violence, and much more. Some mental health issues are much easier to spot while others can go undetected for years. 

Simply put, this can be a very challenging landscape to traverse. For today’s post, we’re offering an overview of many facets of California family law that deal with mental health issues. 


Given that California is a “no-fault divorce” state, a person does not need a reason to divorce their spouse, so there’s no need to demonstrate that the mental health issues contributed to the divorce, per say. There are instances where this information is relevant, however. 

If a spouse is unable to make decisions on a legal capacity due to mental health issues, the courts can dissolve the marriage via “legal incapacity.” When this happens, the petition for divorce must be presented to the spouse’s guardian or conservator. This person will also represent the spouse’s interests in court. 

As for annulment, the courts can annul a marriage if they determine that a spouse was unable to consent to the marriage when it took place. Mental health issues can be a valid reason for why a spouse was unable to provide consent at the time of being wed.

Child Custody

As the ultimate deciding factor in any child custody case involves protecting the interests of the child and preserving his/her well-being, mental health issues can and often do impact custody matters. 

If a parent can demonstrate that his/her mental health issues or disorders don’t interfere with standard parental duties, then the courts won’t weigh this too heavily against the parent. However, anything that points to the parent being unable to care for or control the child can hurt his/her case. This is also true in cases where drug or alcohol addiction is present.

Spousal Support

The family law courts do consider mental health issues when looking at alimony/spousal support. This is because they consider each person’s ability to earn and to maintain the same standard of living that they had while married. While someone with mental health issues might qualify for some assistance such as disability, the ex-spouse is often expected to help make up for the rest.

If you have any additional questions about any of these topics, and to touch base with one of our skilled family law attorneys, call us at (949) 825-5245. At R & S Law Group, LLP, we offer free initial consultations, no commitment required!