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Getting a divorce when you or your spouse is disabled

People with disabilities face challenges that are unique to their given situation. Whether the disability is mental or physical, if you are disabled, there are daily, sometimes hourly reminders that specific tasks or processes give you more problems than your neighbors or co-workers. However, this doesn’t mean that you are less able to accomplish your goals or live a fulfilling life. You perhaps need to do a bit more research and learn as much as possible about life steps and journeys that are already difficult enough on your own.

Getting a divorce is a difficult life journey that affects the non-disabled and disabled alike. While the law applies to each of us in equal amounts, how you as a disabled person handle your divorce and plan for it will likely be different. In today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, I would like to share with you some specific pieces of information that will be relevant for you to take in and understand as you approach a divorce.

If you have questions about the subject matter discussed in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We offer free of charge consultations with a licensed family law attorney six days a week. The attorney you meet with will take time to sit and speak to you about your situation and answer your questions in a comfortable and pressure-free environment.

Are you more likely to get divorced if you become disabled?

If you are disabled, or your spouse is, you may be surprised to learn that there is plenty of information out there online and in print media that suggests that your chances of encountering divorce are higher now than before the onset of a disabling condition. This stands to reason if you think about it. Hard times, stressful times bring about challenges in a marriage that require a rock-solid commitment from you and your spouse. If one of you is faltering or wavering in your commitment to each other, the groundwork has been laid for a divorce to occur.

Complicating factors like the need for specialized and extended care for the disabled spouse, issues regarding current levels of support for a spouse unable to work, as well as problems associated with dividing up conservatorship rights and duties for children exist for you and your spouse. If you are already facing issues associated with topics like this during your marriage, you can expect the disagreements to become amplified during a divorce.

How functional is your spouse mentally?

For this section, we will be approaching the topic of mental impairments and disabilities as if your spouse is the person with the disabling condition. As people live longer and longer, we begin to encounter situations where older people want to get divorced with greater frequency. Their bodies are doing well, but their minds may not be in the same position.

This can prove to be a critical and relevant issue in your divorce case. You would have to ask yourself whether or not your spouse is mentally able to participate fully in the divorce process due to their failing mental health. When you hire an attorney to represent you in your spouse, you should consult with them to determine under state law what is appropriate in terms of your spouse’s capacity to represent themselves in a divorce or to even engage with counsel. A guardian or conservator may have to be appointed by the court if it is determined that your spouse is incapable of making decisions independently.

Will you play a role in your spouse’s life after divorce?

Suppose that you and your spouse get along just fine. While you have been a doting spouse, you believe that a divorce is necessary due to some of the difficulties associated with your spouse becoming disabled. After a great deal of thought, you have decided to hire a lawyer and proceed with the divorce. Your first question may be to what extent you can and should you play a role in helping to provide for your spouse after the divorce from a financial perspective.

Keep in mind that spousal maintenance may be a possibility for you to pay after your divorce if it is shown that your disabled spouse will be unable to provide for their minimal, basic needs on their own. If your spouse is receiving social security disability payments, these sums are unlikely to exceed $1,500 per month. The amount they need over and above this may need to be paid by you for a certain period.

What effect does divorce have on governmental benefits?

Suppose you are receiving social security disability benefits or supplemental income from Social Security due to being determined as unable to work. In that case, you probably have questions about how your divorce will impact your benefits.

Suppose you are receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), your need to receive benefits increases in a divorce. The reason being is that you are now dependent solely on your income rather than that of your spouse and yourself. Depending on how property is divided in your case, you may be able to contact the government and have your benefits increased.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) will not be affected by a divorce, but keep in mind that these benefits can be accessed for spousal maintenance or child support payments. Keep in mind that you qualify for SSDI in most cases only if you have worked within the past five years. If you do not have any recent work, you are unlikely to apply for SSDI.

What about Medicare benefits?

Related to your or your spouse receiving SSDI benefits, Medicare is an important topic that is often not discussed in the context of a divorce case. If you are receiving benefits through SSDI or are over 65, you are eligible for Medicare. Parts of the plan do not require premiums to be paid, while others do. Medicare can be purchased for those not eligible to receive social security retirement income.

When in doubt- contact an attorney to learn more about your situation

The topics that we have covered today are just the tip of the iceberg and relevant ones that are likely to be discussed a great deal in your divorce case. While you cannot always prepare for every possible eventuality, it pays to learn what you are likely to encounter to plan and decide how you want to approach each topic individually. Family law attorneys- specifically those with experience handling divorce cases for people with disabilities- are a terrific resource when it comes to issues like this.

If you have questions or need clarification about any topic we covered today, I recommend contacting the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We represent people of all different sorts from our community, and we take a great deal of pride in doing so. Our attorneys and staff are attuned to the needs of our clients, and we value communication and fair dealing in our representation. To learn more about our office and help you and your family, please do not hesitate to contact us today.

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