Divorce is never easy even in the best of circumstances. When your spouse is dealing with a physical disability or a mental illness, the guilt associated with leaving him or her can be overwhelming. If you are considering filing divorce from someone who is ill, make sure you are prepared for the additional emotional costs you may face during your separation.

Initial Considerations

Mental illnesses and physical disabilities are often a chronic source of stress in a marriage. Divorce rates among couples who deal with these problems are extremely high, and the development of a disability during a marriage is often disastrous. The spouse who wants to leave the marriage often feels a deep sense of shame or guilt for “abandoning” their partner in their time of need. However, these relationships can be toxic for everyone involved.

If you are thinking of filing for divorce when your spouse has a disability, careful planning is required. Depending on how much care and assistance you currently provide for your spouse, you may need to take actions like transferring power of attorney and the ability to make medical decisions to a friend or family member, or arranging for a full or part-time caregiver to assist your spouse.

Depending on how much care your spouse needs on a daily basis, you may be ordered to pay alimony or spousal support. The amount of this support will depend on your finances, your spouse’s finances, and your spouse’s ability to receive support in the form of Social Security or other government benefits.

It is important to remember that no matter how much help you currently give your spouse, a judge will not order you to stay with or care for that person against your will. Ultimately, it is your spouse’s responsibility to support themselves.

Government Benefits

People who are disabled and cannot work are often eligible to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits or Supplemental Security Income. These programs are based on a person’s income and ability to work.

While you were married, your family’s income may have exceeded the limits for these programs. If this is the case, then your spouse should look into applying for benefits based on his or her new income level. Alimony payments may affect eligibility, so it is important to tailor a divorce settlement in a way that ensures that your spouse will be eligible for these program.

In many instances, people afflicted with mental conditions like depression are not eligible for government assistance because they are still able to work. While this is unfortunate for your spouse, he or she cannot expect to live off of your support payments forever. In situations like these, it is important to encourage your spouse to seek treatment or counseling for the condition in order to live a more productive life.

Health Insurance

When your spouse is dealing with a disability, health insurance is paramount. If you provided health insurance for your spouse through your employer, you may be able to negotiate continued coverage during your divorce settlement.

Alternatively, if your spouse is eligible for government assistance like SSI or SSDI, he or she may also be eligible for Medicaid benefits. If this is not the case, your spouse may be able to obtain health insurance through programs created by the Affordable Care Act.

Dealing with Divorce

No matter what issues you and your former spouse may face, planning a divorce requires expert assistance from experienced family law attorneys. This is especially true whenever one of the spouses is dealing with a disability.

At Pacific Northwest Family Law, our attorneys understand your situation, and will work with you and your former spouse to create a plan that fits both of your needs. For assistance with your divorce, contact us today by calling 509-572-3700.