Although not necessarily obvious to everyone, it is no surprise to many that when one spouse becomes ill with a terminal or chronic disease, the incidence of divorce increases. Serious illness often robs a person of their ability to provide companionship and fulfill their portion of the obligations and responsibilities that go into family life. On top of that, the healthy spouse may suddenly find themselves not only taking on the role of sole breadwinner but that of caregiver for their partner as well.
Combined with the inevitable loss of intimacy, the resulting stress on a marriage can be devastating. Dissolving a marriage is not without its share of complexities, even when both parties are healthy, and divorcing a sick spouse adds a number of complications to the process. It’s important that the attorney you work with understands your situation and has experience dealing with the issues that it entails.
Talking About the Tough Things
There are special legal considerations when divorcing a sick spouse that will need to be discussed with your attorney. If your spouse is depending on your health insurance policy, you may want to delay your divorce. An attorney can properly discuss options that may work for your unique situation.
Family Court has general guidelines regarding how to disperse additional benefits like retirement accounts, pensions, and life insurance policies. Any changes to the policy terms themselves, such as changing the primary beneficiary, could be a violation of Automatic Restraining Orders that go into place when you file for divorce. For this reason you want to make sure you have consulted with an attorney and have a plan in place. In the case where the prognosis is terminal, the ill spouse may need estate planning services to determine things like property division, having an advanced medical directive and power of attorney.
With regard to custody of your children, the favored route is joint custody, but that will need to be carefully considered, depending on your spouse’s prognosis and abilities. The parties may want to consult not only with an attorney but with a marriage and family therapist who can advise on how to tactfully handle things in the best interest of the children.
Making the Hard Decisions Now
Thinking about the process of divorcing a sick spouse can be as overwhelming and stressful as the illness itself, but you don’t have to be intimidated. Make a phone call and begin talking to an attorney who has been through this many times before and is familiar with the nuances. Leave it to them to work out all the particulars and come up with a plan, while you concentrate on getting yourself and your family through it.
The Orange County family lawyers at Buncher Family Law understand the emotional upheaval divorce can cause and approach every case by really listening and practicing compassion throughout the whole proceedings. Our goal is to make our clients comfortable in the knowledge that they are in good hands. And as needed we can refer the parties to other professionals to help them through this unique set of circumstances which may require planning above and beyond a typical divorce.
Please contact our office today if you would like to discuss a legal matter with one of our qualified attorneys.