Kim Kardashian filed for divorce in California in February 2021. This celebrity divorce will involve four children and $2.1 billion in assets.

But it will also involve serious mental health issues. Kanye West has publicly discussed his struggles with bipolar disorder. His presidential candidacy in 2020 and some of his political stances have raised questions about other issues, such as narcissism.

Let’s take a look at the way that mental health issues might affect divorce, along with some tips on how to deal with a spouse who has mental health issues during a divorce.

Bipolar Disorder

According to Kardashian, West was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but he had difficulty accepting the diagnosis. West has also stated that he does not use medication to treat his disorder. As a result, he likely shifts between manic and depressive moods, with each lasting several weeks.

During depressive episodes, patients may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Inability to think clearly
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities

During manic episodes, patients can experience:

  • Rapid speech
  • Insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Distraction
  • Impulsivity
  • Irritability

The euphoria that people with bipolar disorder experience during manic episodes can lead to narcissistic behavior, as well.

Narcissism

Neither Kardashian nor West suggests that West’s bipolar disorder leads to narcissism. But some psychoanalysts speculate that West suffers from narcissism during manic episodes or has a narcissistic personality disorder.

Psychologists define narcissism as behavior that’s characterized by exaggerated self-importance and a need for admiration. 

Some of the behaviors of people with narcissistic tendencies include:

  • Grandiose delusions
  • A God complex
  • Lack of empathy
  • Paranoid delusions
  • Lack of understanding of others’ feelings

These symptoms might accompany manic episodes. They might also signify the presence of a separate personality disorder.

Ways That Mental Illness and Personality Disorders Affect a Divorce

Mental illness and narcissism probably do not have much to bear on the division of property. Kardashian and West most likely signed a prenuptial agreement. A judge will divide the couple’s property while following the prenuptial agreement, as long as it is valid.

But even if they did not have a prenuptial agreement in place, a judge would probably not consider mental illness and personality disorders as factors when how to perform property division. Instead, the judge would consider how and when each asset was acquired in the marriage.

While issues surrounding mental illness and personality disorders would not necessarily impact property division, they could impact a few other elements of a divorce case, including:

Spousal Support

A mentally ill spouse might be unable to work. They might require spousal support to meet their daily needs. Under New Jersey law, a judge must consider the “age, physical, and mental health” of the spouses when deciding issues surrounding alimony.

West’s net worth exceeds $1.2 billion. He probably will not seek alimony, and a judge would probably not grant it in West’s case. But in a normal divorce, a spouse with bipolar disorder may have a claim for spousal support.

Child Custody

According to news reports, Kardashian and West have agreed to joint legal custody of the couple’s four children. They also agree that Kardashian will have physical custody of the children and that West will receive visitation rights.

But if no agreement had been reached, West’s mental state would be relevant to the child custody determination. In New Jersey, courts must award custody according to the “best interests of the child.” New Jersey’s custody statute instructs judges to consider the stability of the home environment and the fitness of the parents when awarding custody.

If Kardashian and West had not agreed to custody and visitation, a judge might consider West’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder and refusal to use medication to control it. A judge might reasonably determine that an uncontrolled mental illness would bear on West’s fitness as a parent.

Again, this is merely a hypothetical discussion. But in a divorce in which one parent has a diagnosed and untreated mental illness, the parent without any mental illnesses would likely win custody.

Strategic Issues Surrounding Mental Illness and Personality Disorders

Because Kardashian and West have a prenuptial agreement, the property division process will lack drama. The couple defined how a judge should divide property acquired during the marriage in their prenup. This will leave very few issues to negotiate or litigate.

For couples who don’t have a prenuptial agreement, mental illness and personality disorders can affect the negotiation and litigation strategy.

For example, narcissists require attention in order to feel validated. The less direct communication you have, the less that the narcissist can manipulate the situation to draw attention. Thus, mediation can be used to resolve many issues if the mediator is able to keep the spouses in separate rooms during the mediation.

Moreover, a competent attorney can keep the proceedings in check. They can document every interaction and use the judge to admonish the narcissistic spouse for any abusive tactics. Narcissists will bully people who lack power but will often back down against those who do have it.

You can even use a spouse’s narcissism against them. A clever lawyer can expose their delusions and reduce their credibility.

Emotional Toll of Mental Illness and Personality Disorders

Divorces cause a lot of stress. Divorcing someone with bipolar disorder and narcissistic personality disorder can make your life a nightmare. But you can take a few steps to make things go smoothly. 

This includes strategies like:

  • Cut off direct communication with your spouse. Rely on your lawyer to speak for you.
  • When you need to speak to your spouse, set a boundary that you will not discuss the divorce.
  • Try to resolve issues in the temporary orders at the beginning of the divorce.
  • Keep records, so you do not get caught by surprise when your spouse lies.

You can eliminate a lot of drama by relying on your lawyer to handle a divorce on your behalf. This can allow you to avoid all contact with your spouse. As difficult as it may be to divorce a narcissist, staying married to one can be even worse.