My wife suffers from mental problems and I find it very difficult to live with her. She receives psychiatric treatment and is on medically prescribed drugs to ‘balance her’. They make her condition manageable. Nevertheless I want a divorce. Is this possible under Jewish law ?
By: דיאנה שאלתיאל•Published on: 13 June, 2022
Jewish law distinguishes between severe and irreversible psychiatric/mental conditions which result in the sufferer being totally cut off from reality and less severe conditions where the person does, from time to time, understand what is going on around them, with or without taking medication.
If a Jewish wife suffers from a severe, irreversible psychiatric condition, then she will lack the capacity to consent to divorce. In this situation the husband can apply to the rabbinical court for permission to ‘take another wife’ without divorcing her.
Where a Jewish wife suffers from less severe psychiatric problems and her condition can be ‘balanced’ with medically prescribed drugs so that she does not show symptoms of the mental condition she is prone to , then divorce is possible. She can possess the capacity to understand the concept of divorce with all its implications – and is legally able to consent to it. Her husband can, therefore, file for divorce at the rabbinical court, detailing the grounds. If he manages to prove his case then he will be able to actually divorce, subject to his wife being ‘balanced’ and co-operative at the relevant times.