Divorcing a Disabled Spouse


Disabilities and chronic health concerns can place great stress on a marriage, so it's not surprising that disabled persons have a higher risk of divorce than their non-disabled counterparts. However, a Pasadena divorce involving a disabled person includes several special considerations that you must be aware of.

If your spouse has an intellectual disability and is unable to understand the ramifications of the divorce, the court may appoint a guardian who would have the power to make legal decisions for him or her. If your spouse is capable of understanding the divorce process, no such guardian is needed.

Disability can be a factor in awarding alimony, although it is not the sole consideration. Courts will consider a variety of factors, including the length of the marriage, the resources of each person, and the likelihood that the disabled spouse could become self-supporting. At one point, it was common for people to divorce a disabled spouse to allow him or her access to additional government assistance programs. This type of manipulation of the social safety net is scrutinized much more carefully these days, however.

As part of a spousal support obligation, the non-disabled spouse may be required to provide health insurance benefit and payment of medical costs for the disabled spouse. This varies on a case-by-case basis, however.

A person who is currently receiving SSI disability benefits will likely see his or her payments increase after a divorce. SSI is a need-based benefit, so a decrease in household income would increase the disabled person's need for assistance. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits based on the disabled person's own work history will not be affected by a divorce. Payments based on a spouse's work history should not be affected if the disabled person is 62 years of age or older and was married for at least 15 years.

Since disability brings up several important legal considerations, it is vital to choose a Pasadena divorce lawyer with the expertise needed to handle these special circumstances.