Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Divorce/separation and SZ

Background: my wife with SZ has been entirely unmedicated and symptomatic for almost two years and has refused all my attempts to convince her to re-engage with treatment. Her symptoms are not super bad as these things go – she hears voices, talks and sometimes argues with them, she has paranoid delusions, she is emotionally disengaged and disconnected from the family, she has some unusual behaviors and sleep disturbance, but she is more or less taking care of herself. I’ve been pushing her to start seeing a doctor again – a psychiatrist, her regular doctor – or to see a marriage therapist with me, my goal there was to have them help mediate a conversation about boundaries and responsibilities for the family. But she does not want to. She actually has seen a psychiatrist in her birth country, twice a year, but that is unhelpful since she doesn’t follow their advice (i.e. medication).
I’m feeling some urgency since we have a daughter who has recently had some mental health issues, that I can’t just let the current situation persist, it is not good for any of us. I told my wife that if she continues to refuse any treatment then we will not be able to stay together as a family, and she agreed we should separate. I’ve started talking with a lawyer and have a meeting setup for next week.
This seems like a complicated situation since I don’t think my wife is entirely able to act in her own best interests, but she is not so sick that I think she would be considered legally incapacitated. I want to be sure that the separation process is equitable for her. I think she is unemployable (unless she decided to start taking medication) and it seems likely I will support her for the rest of her life.
Does anyone have experience with divorce or separation from someone with SZ after a fairly long marriage (16 years for us)? How did the process work out for you? For them?

I suppose there may not be much overlap between the people who’ve gone through a SZ-related separation and the people who are reading/posting here. :thinking:

Maybe there’s some analogy to pushing an adult child with unmanaged SZ to live outside the parental home, to reduce harm to the parents / other children. And weighing the needs of the person with SZ vs the needs of the rest of the family.

Firstly, I’m sorry that your wife didn’t go along with your attempts to save your marriage.

In our family, a marriage in which one of the spouses has SZ failed after 17 years. Several years on, I would say that the unaffected person has largely moved on, but the SZ person is not in the best place. At first, we family members of the SZ person were angry at the ex, particularly as that person basically gave the SZ person, who was emotionally fragile and vulnerable, a deadline to get out of the home that they owned jointly, with no offer of support. We had to scramble to find him a place to live and take on the responsibility for his care. After going through a few more years dealing with his inability to make decisions, etc., peppered with emotional breakdowns and a couple of hospitalizations, we have a more understanding attitude toward her. We are alone in supporting him financially, however, since he refused his attorney’s advice to request support from her, probably because he feared her anger. She does not communicate with any of us, by the way.

We are trying to get Social Security Disability Income for him, as he is clearly unable to work and has no other support than us. In a couple of years, he will be eligible for an unreduced pension from one of his prior jobs, as well, and those two income streams may be enough for him to pay his own expenses. We don’t want to see him out on the street, obviously, but our current outlay is not sustainable over the long term, and we would like to preserve our assets for our own retirement and to help our own children.

The most important thing, at least from a financial standpoint, is to ensure that the disabled person is taking advantage of any benefits available to him/her before getting to the point at which the burden of assisting him/her encroaches upon your ability to manage your own finances.