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Depression and Divorce

Depressed Woman

By Alice Ahearn, Partner, Family Law Practice and Pro Bono Practice Chair

Research shows that about 8% of Americans have experienced a major depressive episode, and many more have experienced situational depression or depression of a less intrusive nature. The studies further show that women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.  Those with depression are described as having problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, and/or one’s sense of self-worth.

Understanding Depression in the Context of Divorce

The symptoms described above can be equally applicable to someone diagnosed with depression and to a spouse in an unhappy marriage. An initial concern can be sorting out whether you are depressed because your marriage is breaking down or is it that your marriage is breaking down because you suffer from depression.

The Impact of Depression on Divorce Proceedings

One element of depression as described above that can be particularly concerning to your divorce attorney is the impairment of your sense of self-worth. This impairment may make it difficult for you to ask for what you deserve in your divorce process. In addition, problems with concentration may make it hard for you to make good decisions because of difficulty focusing on what is at stake.

Finding the Right Support: Divorce Attorneys and Therapists

An experienced and skilled divorce attorney will likely be able to spot the symptoms of depression in the first meeting with a new client. Look for an attorney who you feel is asking the right questions and takes the time to seek to “get” you. Try to ascertain whether he or she is attuned to mental health issues. But don’t expect him or her to fill the role of the therapist. Rather:

  • Find a therapist with whom you feel you have rapport from the start, and then commit to working hard on your issues within that therapeutic relationship.
  • Buy time. If possible, put your divorce process on the slow track to give yourself time to make progress in your treatment.
  • Sign a release to permit communications between your attorney and therapist while maintaining confidentiality. In that way, your two professionals will be able to coordinate with each other to help you get the best possible outcome.
  • Be clear-eyed about the fact that all the treatment in the world still may not mean that it is possible to save your marriage. Pursue your therapy with the goal of being a happier person, parent and/or employee than would be possible without treatment.

Taking Proactive Steps for Mental Health During Divorce

Whatever you do, don’t just sweep your problems under the rug and hope that they will get better. Rather, find the best professionals to assist you in taking affirmative steps to sort them out and address them.

Contact The Geller Law Group for More Information

For more information and help please reach out to speak with one of our experienced family law attorneys.

See related: The Secret to Winning In a Divorce

Alice Ahearn

Alice AhearnPartner
OFFICE: 703-687-6188 ext. 118
DIRECT: 703-982-6926

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