Chelsea Gajewski: How To Keep Anxiety From Derailing Divorce

Are You Ready for Divorce?

TAKE THIS QUIZ and Find Out. 

Minute Read

Episode Description

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges often strain a marriage to the breaking point. Yet divorcing someone who struggles with mental health issues is fraught with its own challenges.

Family law attorney Chelsea Gajewski works at the intersection of family law and mental health.

In this podcast episode, Chelsea explains how different divorce processes can make a difference in a divorce case in which mental health issues are involved. She candidly discusses the role professionals like parenting coordinators and guardians ad litem can have in helping families address mental health concerns in divorce.

If you or someone you know is dealing with a divorce where one (or both!) spouses suffers from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, this podcast episode can provide tools and strategies that will make their divorce journey easier.

Show Notes

About Chelsea

Chelsea is the Managing Attorney at Sodoma Law Belmont, where she leads a team of Family Law attorneys who serve the Gaston County, North Carolina community. Her legal practice focuses on custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution and other family law related matters. Chelsea serves many different organizations including as the Chair of the Membership Committee for the Family Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA) and is a passionate advocate for children's rights as well an active member of the Gaston community and local Bar. Chelsea has received many accolades including Legal Elite and Super Lawyers Rising Star for consecutive years.

Connect with Chelsea

You can connect with Chelsea on LinkedIn at Sodoma Law or on Facebook at Sodoma Law.  You can follow Chelsea on her YouTube channel at Sodoma Law and on Instagram at The Sodoma Way.  To find out how to work with Chelsea find her at Sodoma Law website or email her at [email protected].

Key Takeaways From This Episode with Chelsea

  • Chelsea is a family law attorney who focuses on cases involving mental health issues and how they intersect with divorce and custody battles.
  • Common mental health issues that negatively impact marriages include anxiety, depression, and personality disorders like narcissism.
  • Judges want to see that a parent with a mental health condition is taking steps to manage it when determining custody arrangements.
  • Mediation is often preferable to litigation for divorces involving mental health issues as it allows more control and creative solutions.
  • Professionals like guardians ad litem, parenting coordinators, and co-parenting therapists can be appointed to advocate for the child's best interests.
  • If one parent disagrees with therapy/medication for the child, third parties like GALs may be appointed
  • Provisions can be included in parenting agreements to address specific concerns related to a parent's mental health condition.
  • Therapy records can potentially be subpoenaed, but motions can protect that privacy
  • If mental illness severely impairs decision-making, a guardianship may need to be established
  • Consulting therapists, attorneys with relevant expertise, and reviewing law firm resources can help find qualified professionals to assist with mental health-related divorce issues.

Do you like what you've heard? 

Share the love so more people can benefit from this episode too!


Chelsea Gajewski


 custody, mediation, mental health, guardian ad litem


Karen Covy, Chelsea Gajewski

Karen Covy Host00:10

Hello and welcome to Off the Fence, a podcast where we deconstruct difficult decision-making so we can discover what keeps us stuck and, more importantly, how we can get unstuck and start making even tough decisions with confidence. I'm your host, Karen Covey, a former divorce lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, turned coach, author and entrepreneur. And now, without further ado, let's get on with the show.

With me. Today I am pleased to have Chelsea Gajewski, and Chelsea is the managing attorney at Sodoma Law Belmont, where she leads a team of family law attorneys who serve the Gaston County, North Carolina, community. Her legal practice focuses on custody, child support, alimony, equitable distribution and other family law-related matters. Chelsea serves many different organizations, including as the chair of the membership committee for the family law section of the North Carolina Bar Association, and she's a passionate advocate for children's rights, as well as an active member of the Gaston community and local bar. Chelsea has received many accolades, including the Legal Elite and Super Lawyers Rising Star for consecutive years. Chelsea, welcome to the show.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest01:28

Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Karen Covy Host01:31

I'm excited to have you because I know as a family law attorney you do a lot of things right. But really your sweet spot in an area of expertise that you have that I think is really unique and worth talking about is the place where mental health and family law intersect. So, what you know, how can mental health affect a marriage and a divorce? I mean, I think I know in general terms, but I'd love to hear your take and your experience on how mental health can affect not only the marriage but also the divorce process.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest02:09

Yeah, I think that's a great question. It can affect it in a myriad of ways. I think often when people are coming to us when a divorce you know people say what's the most common reason you're seeing people are getting divorced. For me personally, it's something that they've noticed when they were dating or married and they thought it was going to go away once they got married, but it just magnified either when they had children or as they got older. So I think when somebody gets married, maybe that person or their spouse has a mental health condition and they're not realizing what it is in that moment and then it just progresses as they continue with the relationship. So then that's often a reason why they want to get divorced. And then they often say, well, okay, now I want to get a divorce and I hate this piece of them Like this is the piece that I cannot stand. But they need to realize well, that's something that they always dealt with and how can we navigate it Moving forward?

Karen Covy Host03:07

You know, mental health is a catch-all for a lot of different conditions. In your experience, have you noticed there are certain mental health issues or mental health conditions that tend to affect a marriage or a divorce more negatively than others?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest03:26

I think almost I think anxiety and depression. They're typically hand in hand. If someone's suffering from anxiety, they're most likely also suffering from depression. And how does that impact not only their work but their relationship with their spouse, family? And then there's the more serious or more, you know, taboo ones, where people oh, they're a narcissist. Everybody's a narcissist nowadays. There's these buzzwords of gaslighting, but I would say anxiety and depression are the most prevalent.

Karen Covy Host03:58

So when somebody has anxiety and depression, what symptoms or behaviors do they exhibit in the context of divorce that makes the divorce more challenging, like, in other words, if I'm going to be divorcing someone who's got anxiety and depression, what am I in for? What is that going to look like?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest04:22

I guess it depends on what level this person is suffering from depression or anxiety. I've seen most often with depression it's their dating and their spouse doesn't, or their boyfriend or girlfriend or whoever doesn't do a lot Like they're the ones planning the dates, they're the ones doing the grocery shopping, planning the trips, and that's they're in the honeymoon phase, so they think that's okay. But then when that person becomes a parent now, they're laying in bed all day and watching TV and not helping you with that baby or that teenager because their depression is just, it's an inability to do daily functions. As someone who doesn't suffer from depression. So then when they get divorced, it's oh, my child can't stay with that person, they're in bed all day. How are they going to parent a child? Because this is what I've experienced.

Karen Covy Host05:15

And what do you say to a person like that? Because that's a legitimate concern, I mean, as the child gets older, I mean it's a very different concern for a teenager than it is for a two-year-old, but even still, let's say you are that parent of a young child and you're worried that your spouse isn't going to step up because they haven't in the past. What do you say to that parent?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest05:38

That's a great question. It's going to depend on how, the age. I mean. If it's a teenager, you're exactly right that teenager is going to be able to be more vocal and say, well, they're most likely going to be able to take care of themselves on day to day. Or say, well, mom or dad, dad or mom was in bed all day. This is what we did, or this is what I had to do for myself.


But if it's a younger child, I often recommend resources such as okay, well, let's get a guardian ad litem appointed who can do that research, talk to family members, talk to that person's mental health provider, talk to their employer and see how their depression is impacting other ways, other areas of their life, not just being a parent. But often what I've seen is maybe that mental health condition is more prevalent because they're relying on this other person to do all of these things, so they can be in more of that depressive state. So it may be a situation where, okay, well, they don't have that person to rely on them anymore, so maybe they are going to seek some help or learn some things that can get them out of bed and get them to be a better, more present parent Now that they're the only parent there. That time they're not going to be able to rely on that other person.

Karen Covy Host06:48

Well, let's talk about where mental health and the legal system intersect, right. So you've got this person, you're married to somebody, they've got depression as an issue, you're worried about their ability to parent when you're not there. How does the legal system act or react to that person? If I come in and I say, oh, they're depressed all the time, does the judge immediately say, well, they need supervised visitation. How does all of that work?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest07:19

So no, that's another really good question. And no, so mental health. There is a stigma attached to it still, unfortunately. But at least in the court system the judges are saying okay, you have a mental health condition, but are you taking care of yourself? What are you doing to seek treatment? It's not automatically okay, this person has a mental health condition. They get no parenting time and we're going to go strict supervised visits until you prove me otherwise. In fact, it's quite the contrary it's. We're going to start at a 50-50 custody schedule and you have to show me why we're off, why we need to get off that 50-50 schedule. And just because mom or dad or the spouse is saying they're depressed, well, what does that really mean in your eyes versus what's really going on at home?

Karen Covy Host08:04

Yeah, I have another question too, because you mentioned guardian ad litem, and I think that this is an area where a lot of non-lawyers get confused when you talk about guardian ad litem, A, what is this? And B, what is a guardian ad litem? And number two how long is the guardian in place? Is the guardian someone that like sort of oversees the raising of the child till they're 18? How does that work?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest08:32

So a guardian ad litem is an advocate for the child. They are appointed to represent the best interest of that child, so it's an attorney.


So I could be in a guardian ad litem in a case that I'm not representing either parent. And so what I would do is I would meet the child, I would talk to the teachers, the coaches, the therapists, the grandparents, the friends, get to understand what that child looks like and how time with one parent is versus the other parent. And then I would be involved through a custody hearing to say to the judge here's my investigation, here's what it yields, here's my recommendation on a custody schedule and then legal custody as well. And then I would go to the court and say testify, be asked questions, and then, in my experience at least, I'm seeing judges rely on those investigations because that's your boots on the ground. And then, as far as if it's still a high conflict case or they're still, because you're not going to have that guardian ad litem appointed for forever, I would recommend a parenting coordinator, another person who can call balls and strikes between the parents, keeping in mind the best interests of the child, now that that guardian ad litem is no longer involved.

Karen Covy Host09:49

So it sounds like and I know this from being a lawyer, but just for the benefit of the audience that guardian ad litems are in place for the life of the case, the legal case, but once your divorce is over, the guardian goes away, correct?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest10:03

Once the custody piece is over, not necessarily the divorce. If they've reached a permanent trial and they've said, okay, this is what the custody schedule is going to be like, usually the guardian ad litem is released at that point.

Karen Covy Host10:16

Okay, so the guardian doesn't even last through the whole case, oftentimes if the custody is resolved. And then you mentioned parenting coordinator. What is the difference between a guardian ad litem and a parenting coordinator?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest10:31

A parenting coordinator does not represent anybody. I like to refer to them as a mini judge within a case. They are talking with the parents again, the coaches and the teachers, but they're to help reduce conflict between the parents. Okay, my parents can't agree on whether Lucy needs braces. She's got a big gap in her tooth. And dad says, okay, that gives her a lot of character. I think that's great. And mom says no, the orthodontist says she needs braces. They can't reach a decision. They can go to the parenting coordinator, help us make a decision and the parenting coordinator can actually make that decision for them. It keeps them out of court, keeps litigation down and it keeps high conflict cases tamer.

Karen Covy Host11:15

What if one parent doesn't like the decision that the parenting coordinator make? Are they just stuck with it or can they go on back to court?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest11:24

They can go to court and they can go to the judge. Nine times out of 10, at least in my experience the judge is going to listen to what the parenting coordinator says, because that parenting coordinator is usually an attorney or a therapist. They've done their research, they've talked to the orthodontist, they've talked to mom, they've talked to dad, they've talked to everybody involved and they made the decision based on all of that information.

Karen Covy Host11:48

So let's rewind a little bit and, going back to the mental health issue. If somebody is facing you know, let's say that they are the person with the depression and the anxiety and they're worried, if they get a divorce, that that will be used against them, that maybe they won't get to see their kids or they won't get as much money or whatever. The fear is, how does that actually play into the divorce case and into the whole scenario? Because people think a lot of things that maybe aren't so true.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest12:28

Yes. So if they're suffering from something and but they're getting help, that's not going to impact their case, as if they are suffering from something it's negatively impacting their life, their ability to parent. That's one thing, but if they're seeking help, just like if you and I were sick and we had the flu and we didn't want to get everybody contagious, we'd go to the doctor and get some medicine. It's just taking care of yourself and making sure you're being the best version of yourself that you can be learning how to manage this mental health condition.

Karen Covy Host12:59

So it sounds like if somebody has a mental health condition, whatever that is, if it's under control, if they're taking care of it, they're getting the help that they need. That shouldn't be a factor in whether they get to see their kids or what happens in their divorce.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest13:14

Yes, I mean the main thing judges want, because at least in North Carolina this is a best interest state. So what is best for that child? And if it's typically a healthy relationship with their parent, and even if that parent has a mental health condition, so long as that parent is healthy and they have a healthy relationship with their child, a judge is going to do whatever they can to continue helping that relationship.

Karen Covy Host13:36

So let's take a pause and talk about for a moment process, because, as you and I both know, there's a lot of different ways to get divorced these days. There's mediation, there's collaborative divorce, some states have arbitration, then there's traditional go-to-court litigation, so there's a lot of ways to do this. If you are in a marriage with someone who has a mental health issue, or you have the mental health issue, is there a particular divorce process that would be better for you than others?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest14:13

I am a big fan of mediation. I think mediation gives everybody a voice, versus walking into a courtroom meeting a judge who's a complete stranger and who's only going to get to know your case for about an hour or two and then say, okay, I made this decision, now who's next? So I'm a big proponent of mediation. I think it gives parties control, I think it allows them to get creative and, quite honestly, you have to go to mediation, at least in North Carolina, if there's an issue related to kids or property distribution. So I always start my cases off with let's go to mediation, let's see if we can resolve this. Let's keep it amicable, because that's going to allow for a better co-parenting relationship anyways, after you all resolve it, versus going in front of a judge and tearing one another apart.

Karen Covy Host15:03

Yeah, I know, though some people are really reluctant. If we want to narrow mental health down to narcissism, which is what so many people are talking about these days, there's a split school of thought. Some people say you can't mediate with a narcissist because they're just never going to agree because of their mental health condition. You're just going to spin in circles. But yet, at the same time, those you know there is another school of people, maybe even the same people, who say but when you put a narcissist in court, that's their playground, that they're very grandiose, that they thrive on the conflict. So what's the answer? What's the best divorce process for somebody whose spouse has some sort of personality disorder like narcissism?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest15:58

I'm still always going to say try mediation. To me it's not going to hurt If, at the worst case scenario, you don't resolve it at mediation. Well then you've checked off a requirement, but also maybe you're learning a little bit about what it is they want, and maybe what they want isn't as bad as what you thought it was going to be. And you can get creative on the language to give them what they want, but still putting some precaution in there. Also, I think it's a little bit of a strategy. Ok, now I get to know what they want. So, before going to court, maybe I need to do more discovery or maybe I need to schedule a deposition. So to me, I think mediation gives you a variety of benefits compared to the outweigh of okay, we spent a day, we didn't resolve it, all right.

Karen Covy Host16:44

What do you think, again, if you're the person with the issue? I know a lot of people with mental health issues. Obviously, it's very, very sensitive and they have a therapist and they're worried that if they become involved in a divorce, especially a litigated divorce, that their therapist could be deposed or called to testify and that all of the things that they thought were private in therapy will now all their dirty laundry will be aired. I know this is an area that where the law might vary state to state, but in your experience in North Carolina, is that something people need to be worried about and, if so, what can they do about it?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest17:24

There's ways to get around that, to precaution yourself or protect yourself. I mean, first I would talk to your therapist Are you somebody that will go to court or won't go to court? And then, if it's okay, well, I want this therapy to only be for my resource, and my resource only then make sure it's a therapist who's very adamant about not going to court and then talk to your attorney. I don't ever want them to be brought up to court and they can file motion to quash motion for protective order. There are things they can do to protect that relationship. But I've also seen people say, okay, well, I'm going to choose this therapist for my child at least, because I see how this other person's mental health is impacting them. Or my child has mental health issues and I want the court to be aware of that when deciding who was going to be with the custody or the physical custody. So some therapists do go to court and people strategically choose that therapist, knowing that they will go to court and testify, as a way to advocate for their child.

Karen Covy Host18:26

You bring up an interesting point about what if the child has mental health issues. If you've got a child who's got some sort of mental health issue, how do you deal with that in the context of divorce and family law, and especially if maybe the other parent isn't on board with all the same treatment you want? I see this happen often. One parent wants to medicate the child, the other parent says no. I see this happen often. One parent wants to medicate the child, the other parent says no, they don't need medication. How do those kinds of issues typically get resolved?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest19:05

I would advise them to get a guardian ad litem or a parenting coordinator involved and then I would have a joint session with the therapist. Or, like you said, if it's one parent doesn't see that this child is suffering from any mental health and they don't even want to have a therapist involved, then there's avenues that you can go through the court system to get those people appointed to get final decision-making so that I can make decisions to get my child in front of a therapist. I think, especially as the child gets older, teachers are going to notice things that can advocate for them coaches, friends of parents, people who are around that child. You're not going to be the only one noticing things, so having a good foundation surrounding you, I think, is also going to be important to combat and show the other side is wrong.

Karen Covy Host19:56

So what do you think if somebody is thinking about divorce but they haven't said anything yet and their child is struggling and they're not sure if their child has mental health issues or not, what would you say to that parent? Is it better to you know? When do they get them in therapy? Because now if they get them in therapy, they got to talk to their spouse Do they file for divorce? Then wait like what's the best, and I know it has to do with the best interest of the child, but how do you figure out what that is?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest20:28

I would say take them to a therapist. I would say, even though they're married and they're contemplating the separation, I would say, if you can get them into therapy now, do it, because it's going to be harder for the other person to say, well, now they need to be out of therapy once they're already in therapy. And separation, as we know, can cause more emotions, more people wanting to do things for revenge versus best interest of that child. So I would say get them in now, see what you can do to get them in now versus later.

Karen Covy Host21:00

How soon can a guardian ad litem be appointed? Because you know from what I'm hearing, you say there's a separation period in North Carolina. You know, if you're worried about your child and you want that guardian in there to advocate for them, how do you get that set up, like, how do you do that?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest21:21

So even when so first I always start with a letter I really do. That's how I start my practice. I reach out to the other side and I say here are the things that they're exhibiting, here's what I, here's what I would recommend getting a guardian ad litem appointed. And if the other side to me, if it was me and there's nothing to hide, I'm going to say, okay, yeah, go ahead and get a guardian ad litem because, who knows, it may benefit my client. Then, if they're still opposed, you can file a motion to get a guardian ad litem appointed. Or at least in Mecklenburg County, which is in Charlotte, North Carolina, there's Council for Children's Rights, which is a nonprofit. They're a best interest attorney. And so instead of paying a private attorney an hourly rate to be your guardian at LIDA, you're paying an application fee with Council for Children's Rights and it's a sliding scale on their income.

Karen Covy Host22:10

Interesting, and do they so they act as the guardians. I mean, they would be the one appoint, and the guardians have to be appointed by the court, right? This isn't an independent hire kind of thing.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest22:22

Well, if you agree to it, you can enter into a consent order that says this is this person's role, here is their authority, because that person's going to want to talk to the therapist, they're going to want to talk to providers or physicians or pediatricians. So you have to have an order in place to give that person the authority to do that. But if the other side's not agreeing, then you'd have to go to court and get the judge to do it.

Karen Covy Host22:47

Well, and let's talk about speaking of agreeing agreements that are made because we both know, if you're divorcing and you have children, you're going to have to have some sort of a parenting agreement, custody agreement, something that lays out how you will parent this child or your children until they're 18 years old, or whatever the age of majority is in your state. So if I'm dealing with somebody who a spouse, who has mental health issues, are there special kinds of provisions I should be thinking about having in my custody or parenting agreement that deal with that?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest23:25

So it's funny that you say that, because I was actually at a mediation yesterday and I think this was kind of coming up, so we got them to agree to a parenting coordinator without a hearing. So I think that's a great way to preempt some issues down the road, because you know someone's going to be in your case calling balls and strikes. And then the other idea somebody had was getting a co-parenting therapist and then having that person agree to attend some co-parenting sessions, not only with just the parties but their parenting coordinator as well. So the parenting coordinator gets to hear the resources and advice the co-parenting therapist is giving, so that there's no telephone. Like we all heard the same thing and I think that's a great way to keep everybody on the same page and some transparency.

Karen Covy Host24:15

Okay, part of what I'm hearing, which is wonderful. First of all, I hope everybody out there listening understands there's a lot of different, very specialized professionals who can handle different pieces of the divorce. But what I'm hearing as a human is whoa, what is that going to cost me? Like this person and this person and this person. What would you say about that?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest24:40

I would say a parenting coordinator, because that's split between the parties.

Karen Covy Host24:45

You mean the payment?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest24:46

The payment is split between the parties, that's going to cost you guys a lot less than one person paying their attorney, another person paying their attorney and then fighting it out in court their attorney, another person paying their attorney and then fighting it out in court.

Karen Covy Host25:00

And what about all these like the co-parenting therapy?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest25:07

In those kinds of situations, who pays for that? I would recommend that everybody try to get at least a 50-50 split, because you got to have skin in the game. Now, granted, if somebody is not going to agree to pay equal, I still think it's going to benefit you to go. So, even if it's a 60-40 split or 70-30, so long as there's some skin in the game where they're saying, ok, well, I'm paying for this, so I better get some use or some benefit out of it.

Karen Covy Host25:29

And how long can a parenting coordinator or co-parenting therapist I mean, I know you said the guardian their role ends once custody is decided or agreed to. What about these other professionals? How long do they stay around?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest25:46

Again, it can get creative. So parenting coordinators can stay in through the duration of your child. So when they turn 18, at least in North Carolina, or if parties are sometimes they put a year limit on them. They say, okay, get us through this first year and then they're done, they're, they're out, unless someone wants them to stay in. But the nice thing about a parenting coordinator which also goes with the cost concern is if you guys are getting along, maybe you are going to the co-parenting therapist and you don't need a parenting coordinator because there's not as much conflict. Then you're not getting a bill and you're not really using them.

Karen Covy Host26:21

Do they bill by the hour, typically, like you get charged based on how much you use them or you're just going to get charged no matter what.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest26:31

You get charged on how much you use them, Similar to if you were to hire an attorney. It's an hourly rate Right.

Karen Covy Host26:38

Okay and you know, so you've got. Let's say, you're not using the parenting coordinator Since the court appointed them. Do you have to go back to court to get them unappointed?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest26:51

No, if everybody's agreeing that they're no longer needed, the parenting coordinator will draft a simple consent order to be released and everybody just signs it and submits it to the judge.

Karen Covy Host27:02

Okay. So what I'm hearing you say is one of the avenues or one of the things to think about. If there's a parent who's got a mental health issue, one thing to think about in the custody provisions is to say we need a parenting coordinator. But what do you do if things haven't risen to that level or you don't have the money or want to spend on a parenting coordinator? What other kinds of provisions might people consider putting in their custody or parenting agreement to help them deal with the realities of the mental health issues that they're experiencing in their family?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest27:39

So I say to all my clients what is your biggest concern? What are you noticing every day with that parent? If so, let's, we can create a rule about it. We can create a rule to put in some sort of agreement that says, okay, maybe you know the other spouse can't bring the other the child around his new girlfriend or their new boyfriend every two weeks. So what is something that you're concerned about that you're seeing?


Or maybe, if that person's depressed, no screens from you know 8 am to 12 pm and then again not until 5 pm what are some things that you're seeing that are red flags to you that we can put into an agreement and say no more of this. And again, I think that's a benefit of going to mediation, because you get to be creative in that sense. And then the other thing I did want to circle back on real quick when you're selecting your parenting coordinator or your mediator and you are either the person with mental health issue or you think the other person has a mental health issue or the child does, I would encourage you to really ask your attorney and say who do you think is going to be a good mediator to deal with these complicated issues? Who's going to be sympathetic, who has really good experience with this. So that's a really big issue too, just making sure you're strategically thinking who can help us the best.

Karen Covy Host29:01

Yeah, I think that's a problem that a lot of people face, because, you know, for people who are in the business, people like you and me, we know who's who right, and so somebody could say hey, who do you know that specializes in blah, blah, blah, and I can send them names. But to a normal person out in the you know in the world, but to a normal person out in the world, they're going to go to the internet and you can't tell one person from another. So how would you recommend, besides maybe going to their attorney, where else can they figure out? What professionals do they need? What kind of help can they get themselves, their child, their spouse, even you know what what's out there, and how do they find somebody with those credentials?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest29:49

Well, I'm always going to say go to a therapist first. They're going to know, okay, these are the things that you're dealing with, whether it's you, your spouse or your child, and typically a good therapist is going to know a good attorney's going to know a good mediator, because like attracts like and if you are like-minded you're going to have a like-minded resource book. So I would start there. Also, at least our website. I love our Sodoma Law website because it has really good resources. What are some options for you, A guardian at light? I'm a parenting coordinator, and then you can flesh those out. So if there's some attorneys in your office, really find a good website, because a lot of them have blogs or resources, things of that nature.

Karen Covy Host30:31

Yeah, I think that's really good and important advice for people to hear. You know, in my opinion, I know there's good and bad in every profession, but divorce lawyers get a really bad rap right. Some well-deserved, some maybe not so, but one of the things you know, people are so tempted to go the DIY route now with divorce, and I think what you're highlighting is that one of the things that an attorney will bring to the table that people don't think about is their network.

Chelsea Gajewski Guest31:02

Yes, you know, because strategy getting creative?

Karen Covy Host31:07

Yeah, because, like you said so, you were talking about all these things that you can do in terms of mediation. What options or opportunities are available if you're divorcing in the court system and you've got a spouse with a mental illness?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest31:24

Well, I think it's again. It's OK. Do we need a parenting coordinator? Do we need a guardian at line? Do we need a parenting capacity evaluation? So it's what level are you wanting to go? What are really the concerns and how can we address those concerns quickly, efficiently, because the longer you go without somebody to help dress them, the more difficult it's going to be. I say my goal as an attorney is to get you to your next chapter quick, quick, efficiently and prepared. I don't want clients staying with us forever.

Karen Covy Host31:58


Chelsea Gajewski Guest31:59


Karen Covy Host32:02

You just mentioned a word capacity and have you ever? You know, I know what some people worry about if their spouse has a mental health issue that they don't have the capacity to get a divorce. Have you ever run across that and if so, what do you do in that circumstance?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest32:22

When you say capacity to get a divorce, do you mean like the actual divorce or do you mean dealing with the things in between?

Karen Covy Host32:30

The actual divorce that the other parent has a mental illness that rises to the level that it makes you question do they know what they're doing? Could they sign a legal document and have it be binding? You know what? If they're really, really struggling with mental health issues, what do you do? Are you just stuck?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest32:52

No, there's resources. I mean, we have an estate planning attorney in our office who does work on guardianships and things like that. So if somebody is mentally incapable of making decisions for themselves, we have to say, okay, well, who is appointed as their power of attorney? You have to look at those kinds of routes. I have a client right now where he's not mentally capable of making decisions, so his daughter has been appointed as power of attorney and I've been working with her to help him get their situation resolved. So it's just asking the right questions, figuring out who's been appointed, and then going there, going through that route.

Karen Covy Host33:29

So it sounds like that person. If they truly lacked the capacity to understand what they were doing, somebody else would be a guardian for them. I mean, we're not talking about guardian for the children, we're talking about a guardian for one of the spouses, right? That's right, wow. And what do you do when that person with the mental illness is like no, I'm fine, I'm fine. Now what?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest33:58

That would be a question I would leave to a judge. That would be a question I would leave to a judge,

Karen Covy Host34:06

You're a smart woman. I have to tell you this has really been enlightening because it's something in general mental health is something that a lot of people still don't want to talk about. You know, it's kind of hidden, it's in the closet and, as you and I both know that, when you're in a family law, divorce situation or custody situation, these issues come out and you, they can't stay in the closet. So I really appreciate your bringing all of this to light for people to give them some idea of what they can do. Now my last question is if they really liked what they heard, where can they find you?

Chelsea Gajewski Guest34:46

You're so sweet. You can find me on Belmont's website and then my email is [email protected], and I'm happy to help or answer any other questions if anyone has anything.

Karen Covy Host35:02

Chelsea, you have been a wealth of information. I really appreciate your sharing it all and, for anyone who's listening, we will link in the show notes to Sodoma Law, to you, too. There's plenty of ways that people can you know. If they can't find you any other way, they can always come to the podcast, look at the show notes. They can do it through there. So, Chelsea, thank you so much again for sharing all your wisdom, and for those of you out there who are listening, if you like what you saw, if you like what you heard, please do me a big favor. Subscribe to the podcast, subscribe to the YouTube channel, give it all a thumbs up, and I look forward to talking with you again next time.

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


divorce advice, divorce and emotional health, divorce tips, mental health, off the fence podcast

You may also like

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

What if You Could Get Exclusive Content, Stories, and Tips Delivered Right to Your Inbox for FREE every week?

[Not convinced you want to be on one more email list? I get it.

Here's why THIS list is different]

"I read every word you put on line and listen to all your podcasts and encourage you to keep up the good work you are doing. I wish I had known about you in the early stages of my divorce as it would have saved me a lot of hell. I have referred numerous friends who are in various stages of going through “divorceland” to your articles. The attorneys do not cover what you do, and in order to lessen the pain your approach is really helpful."

Don't Miss Out. Subscribe Now.