Divorce by Means of Incurable Insanity

For divorce purposes in California, there are only two “grounds” for divorce: Irreconcilable differences which have caused the irremediable breakdown of the marriage or incurable insanity. Thus, California is a “no-fault” state.

Family Code section 2311 defines irreconcilable differences as “those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.” In other words, the court must determine that in the minds of the parties the martial differences are so substantial that there is no reasonable possibility of reconciliation.

Last week’s topic discussed the definition of irreconcilable differences. (See What are Irreconcilable Differences dated February 18, 2017.) This week we’ll discuss the other “grounds” for divorce in this no-fault state, incurable insanity.

The California Family Code does not specifically define incurable insanity, but the court must find that the spouse was incurably insane at the time of filing for divorce, and that the spouse will remain so. However, there must be proof to show that the party is incurably insane and that proof must be provided by competent medical and/or psychiatric testimony. (See California Family Code Section 2312.)

Further, although commitment proceedings or conservatorship adjudication are not mandatory, the court will probably focus on whether the alleged insane spouse’s mental state is so impaired that it interferes with everyday marital responsibilities and interaction; to the point where the parties’ “marriage” is in name only.

Please note, that if a spouse is incompetent to represent him or herself in a divorce proceeding, a guardian ad litem will be appointed to represent his/her marital interests. In other words, if the person is incapable of understanding the proceedings, someone must step in to represent that spouse’s interests.

Categories: Divorce, Family Law
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