People can become disabled due to a variety of causes. They may suffer paralysis in a car accident. They may have been crushed by machinery at work. Some suffer from medical conditions that cause them to suffer physical disabilities. A botched surgical procedure can cause disabilities. Old age and wear and tear on the body can cause a person to become physically and/or mentally disabled.
When a person is disabled, they may be unable to walk or talk. They may not be able to move their arms and legs. They may not be able to work or drive. They likely need assistance from others to perform daily tasks, such as getting dressed, eating, bathing, and using the restroom.
Disabilities can be hard to handle for everyone involved. The disabled person is likely frustrated that they cannot do things on their own and they have to rely on others. The caregiver — in many cases, the spouse — is likely burned out from having to do everything for their spouse. They may not have expected to become a full-time caregiver, especially if they are young and have children to care for, as well. This can cause a person to become physically and mentally exhausted.
Many continue on, though, especially when they are caring for their elderly parents. However, when the person they are caring for is their spouse, many feel compelled to file for divorce and move on.
Can a person do this? While it may seem cruel to divorce a disabled person who relies on their spouse to do everything for them, some people just are not cut out to be caregivers. They do not want to be the one doing everything. They entered the marriage looking for a partnership and they cannot have that, so now they want a life of their own. They want to move on, so if they decide to file for divorce, there is nothing that the law can do to keep them married and keep the person as the disabled spouse’s caregiver.
While you can file for divorce, keep in mind that the process will not be easy. Plus, it is highly unlikely that you will get a clean break from your disabled spouse. You will likely be on the hook for alimony and other financial assistance even after a divorce, so make sure you know what to expect. Here are some things you will need to consider when divorcing a disabled spouse.
The Level of Care and Support Your Spouse Needs
What services do you provide for your disabled spouse? Do you drive the person from place to place? Do you have to assist them with daily tasks such as dressing, bathing and eating? Is the person able to do anything on their own, such as household chores? Consider all of this as you file for divorce and think about what your spouse can do and which people in his or her life (friends, family members, and neighbors) can provide services on your behalf. If not all of your disabled spouse’s needs can be met, then you may need to consider hiring a professional caregiver.
Be Prepared to Pay Spousal Support
If your spouse cannot work and earn income, then you may be responsible for paying some degree of alimony to offset the costs incurred by hiring a caregiver. In Florida, there are various types of alimony. In your spouse’s case, you may be looking at having to pay durational or even permanent alimony. While temporary alimony is available, your spouse will likely be disabled for life, so expect to be ordered to contribute financial support for a long time.
Keep in mind that you may have to pay a monthly amount of spousal support that is higher than usual, since your disabled spouse will now have to pay for the medical support that you are no longer providing him or her, and that can be very costly.
You May Need to Provide Health Insurance
If your spouse qualifies for Social Security Disability Insurance (based on work history) or is over the age of 65, then they qualify for Medicare, which will provide them with health insurance. If not, then you may also be on the hook for providing your disabled spouse with health insurance. This can be a huge financial burden, especially if you have to pay alimony, as well. Plus, some employer health plans do not cover ex-spouses. Be sure to discuss this with your lawyer.
Look Into Benefits
Help your disabled spouse get the benefits that they are entitled to receive. This will help reduce your financial burden after a divorce. If your spouse qualifies for some sort of Social Security benefits, then help them with the application process. If they already have benefits, then help them get their payments increased. After a divorce, their need will actually increase, since they will no longer be able to count your income as assets. Therefore, you should contact the Social Security Administration and ask for an increase.
Also, look into Medicare and other health care benefits. If your spouse was a veteran, the Veterans Administration may be able to offer health care services as well as caregiver support.
They may even qualify for care at a VA hospital. Public assistance through state and federal governments may also be available. Your spouse may be able to receive food stamps as well as other short-term benefits. Your lawyer can help you find appropriate resources.
Seek Legal Help
Divorce is rarely easy, and things become more complicated when one spouse has a disability. While you can still file for divorce, you will likely have to financially and physically support your ex-spouse to some degree after the divorce.
If you are divorcing a person with a disability, contact Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler. He can assess your situation and help you understand what to expect during and after the divorce. Schedule a consultation by filling out the online form or calling (954) 346-6464.