*Throughout the article, reference is made to 'he' or 'she' when talking about a person who is bipolar. It can be either, and using one term or the other is merely for the sake of convenience. These suggestions are meant for anyone, male or female, who is suffering from bipolar and his (or her) family and friends.

If your wife is bipolar and throws you for a loop by filing for divorce during a manic phase without discussing it with you, you're entitled to a momentary panic attack. There's something awful about being served with divorce papers out of the blue. Once you've collected your scattered thoughts, take some immediate steps to minimize the damage, including:

1. Financial damage control first. Check your banks account like I mentioned earlier and protect any and all assets you can. If she filed for divorce without discussing it, she could easily take money the same way.

2. Call your local bar association and ask for a referral. Tell them you want a lawyer who specializes in divorce and mental health issues. Try to find a lawyer familiar with bipolar. You'll want to try and get a delay on any divorce until your spouse's mental state is evaluated by the court. A good attorney may be able to work within the system to prove your spouse is unable to sign any legal documents until stabilized.

You can also go to www.nami.org, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, and get information about finding an attorney familiar with mental health issues in your area.

Whatever it takes, you need to make time to be sure you find the best attorney you can afford who is familiar with bipolar disorder. In the end you will save a great deal in time, money and pain if you don't have to educate your lawyer about bipolar, and if he or she doesn't understand it, then they can't help you.

  • Your attorney can use a number of delaying tactics, including requesting documents and lengthy answers to questions that are perfectly legitimate. This can get costly, however, so be sure to talk to your attorney about any concerns you have about the costs up front.
  • Ask your attorney to discuss your spouse's mental condition with her attorney on your behalf and see if a temporary waiting period can be negotiated.
  • Talk to your attorney about ways to demonstrate to the court that your spouse should be compelled to undergo counseling.

3. Ask your lawyer to demand counseling before the divorce can go through; this is an option in many states and can delay a divorce until your spouse is either through her manic/depressive phase or she is stabilized by her doctor and withdraws her petition.

The key here is to drag your feet, draw things out, and make sure nothing proceeds until the manic phase has passed so that there is every opportunity to give your spouse time to move beyond her episode and get back into her normal state of mind. Unfortunately, decisions made during an episode are ones that are frequently regretted later on, and filing for a divorce is no exception, so putting off the decision until a time when she (or he) is more stable is in the best interests of both of you.