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Divorcing a Spouse with Borderline Personality Disorder


Couple meeting with divorce lawyer

Divorcing a spouse who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can be a difficult and emotionally taxing experience. People who suffer from BPD exhibit intense and unstable emotions, impulsivity, and have a distorted self-image. It can be challenging to cope with a partner who has BPD, and we are here to help you figure out whether divorce is the best step to take.

BPD is a Mental Health Condition

The first step in divorcing a spouse with BPD is to understand the condition and its symptoms. People with BPD experience feelings of anger, fear, and sadness.  When they are unable to control their anger or sadness, it affects the relationship, and this is especially true when there are children involved.  A spouse with BPD also may have trouble controlling his or her conduct leading to risky or self-destructive behavior. This again negatively affects the relationship, and sometimes divorce is the only option to keep yourself, your children and your assets safe.  In some cases, people suffering from BPD engage in self-harm and suicidal behavior. This creates a difficult situation for spouses; on the one hand, you do not want to abandon your spouse in a time of need; on the other hand, you and your family need to be safe.

Why Divorces Involving Mental Health Conditions Are Challenging

It is important to remember that the BPD symptoms are not the result of a person’s character or moral failing, but rather symptoms of a mental health condition. With medication, therapy and support, BPD can be controlled.  When our clients consider if they should divorce their spouse suffering from BPD, our attorneys always explore whether the spouse suffering from BPD is seeking treatment. If a spouse is refusing to seek treatment, his or her erratic behaviors most likely will continue to negatively impact the marriage and the relationship with the children. 

When divorcing a spouse with BPD, it is important to be prepared for intense emotions and reactions. People with BPD may feel abandoned or rejected, leading to anger, rage, and even verbal or physical abuse. In some situations, you should consider obtaining a Restraining Order or Personal Protection Order or at least have a plan for your safety and well-being in place. It may be helpful to seek the support of a therapist or counselor to help you cope with the emotional turmoil of the divorce.

How Divorce Involving BPD Affects Children

It is also important to understand that the legal process of divorce can be complicated and stressful, especially when a spouse has BPD. If children are involved, you will need to balance your children’s need for a relationship with both parents and their need to be safe and protected from angry outbursts or neglect.  Parents suffering from undiagnosed BPD or who do not appropriately seek treatment for their BPD often believe that they have equal rights to custody and parenting time, even though their BPD symptoms cause them to parent inappropriately.

Additionally, when you divorce a parent suffering from BPD, you will need to find a balance between being honest with your children about why their parent exhibits some poor behaviors and avoiding bad-mouthing the other parent.  Some counseling sessions for the children are a good idea during the beginning stages of divorce.

When considering child custody, it is best to not expose them to the ugly symptoms of BPD.  However, this means that you will need to ask for limited parenting time or even supervised contact. If possible, prepare financially to sustain a substantial custody fight.  Sometimes, you will have to hire experts to prove your case, and those costs can add up quickly.

Finally, it is important to take care of yourself during the divorce process. This includes being supported by your friends, church, and family, eating well, and getting enough sleep. Give yourself time to grieve and to process the end of your marriage.

How an Experienced Divorce Attorney Can Help

In conclusion, divorcing a spouse with BPD can be a difficult and emotional process. If children are involved, it can require significant litigation to get a parenting plan in place that focuses on the children’s safety first and a relationship between the BPD parent and children next.  If you need help with child custody or divorce litigation, give us a call at 616-285-0808.  Let’s talk and discuss what we can do for you to manage the next step of your future in the most successful way possible.