Handling Divorce and Chronic Illness in New Jersey
Relevant things to consider when dealing with a Chronic Illness in the Middle of a Divorce in Monmouth & Ocean County
Divorce is already a complex process, and combined with chronic disease, it requires the help of a seasoned attorney.
On your wedding day, you vow, “in sickness and in health,” meaning it wholeheartedly and never expecting you would be filing for divorce. Embarking on such a powerful decision as divorce presents a myriad of changes and stress, added to the challenges of a chronic illness. Whether the spouse who is the caretaker or the spouse who is chronically ill, petitions for divorce, managing the ins and outs of this legal termination of their union, can be exceptionally difficult. An experienced divorce attorney can work with you to decide the best way to move forward.
What the Research Says about Divorce when a Spouse is Chronically Ill
According to U.S. Institute on Aging, the divorce rate of couples where a chronic illness is suffered by at least one person is 75%. In a specific study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior Researchers looked at the gender and chronic illness of 2,147 couples beginning in 1990. Chronic illnesses such as dementia, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, and Alzheimer’s were included in the study. The researchers were surprised to find that the healthy husbands were more prone to file for divorce, men were more inclined to acquire a chronic illness, and there was no significant difference in gender regarding the sick spouse filing for divorce. The study found a distinct relationship between the onset of the disease and the divorce. It did not consider other factors such as support from family or friends, the severity of the illness, or possible mental illness of either spouse.
What is Considered a Chronic Illness?
A chronic illness has many factors leading to its onset, an extended developmental period, a period of illness that extends more than six months, and associated disability that either remains stable or becomes progressively worse. The affected party has a reduced capacity to complete daily tasks such as housework, full-time employment, or childcare. Common chronic illnesses are COPD, cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Crohn’s, hemophilia, traumatic brain injury, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lupus, myasthenia gravis, and fibromyalgia, among others.
How Does Chronic Illness Affect Marriage in NJ?
A debilitating illness puts pressure on the household economically. Often, someone who suffers from a chronic illness is unable to work full time or sometimes even at all. Early retirement may not be a possibility for the healthy spouse to guarantee the income needed to support the family. Health insurance is another big concern as health benefits may be tied to the healthy spouse’s employment.
The social aspects of life such as vacations, reunions, even small get-togethers or dinners out with friends and family become impossible. Chronic illness can be isolating, and many sufferers and/or their spouses also develop depression/anxiety disorders. In the case of illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, drastic changes in personality and cognition may occur at such a profound level that the healthy spouse can no longer care for their husband or wife on their own.
When an ill spouse is in constant pain, they may lash out at their partner or at the least are constantly complaining and frustrated. No one enjoys being sick and the symptoms of a chronic illness wax and wane. On the “good days,” an outing for the day is perfectly fine, while on a “bad day,” even getting out of bed is a battle.
How Is Divorce Different with A Chronically Ill Spouse?
Divorce is complicated under the best of conditions. When a spouse is chronically ill, the complexities of health insurance, child custody, and property division can create the perfect storm and a divorce that is so tangled that it could be a recipe for disaster without an attorney by your side.
One of the biggest hurdles is health insurance. If the working spouse has their husband or wife on their insurance, that won’t be possible once they are divorced. The federal Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA) forces employers to provide health insurance to the employee’s former partner for no more than three years. Once that period is complete, other insurance must be arranged. Not all chronic illness sufferers cannot work, but if their health continues to decline, full-time employment with health insurance benefits is no longer a possibility.
When it comes to child custody, judges prefer joint custody, but if the chronically ill parent cannot adequately care for the children, that isn’t a possibility.
Alimony is not necessarily a forgone conclusion for the ill spouse. Still, as New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, in all likelihood, some amount of spousal support will be arranged to contribute to health-related expenses. The severity, length, advancement, and prognosis (as to possible improvement or worsening and at what pace) are all considered.
Finding Another Way of Living if one Spouse is Sick in New Jersey
Frequently, when we think about divorce, images of courtroom battles and heated arguments are the first scenes that come to mind, but that is actually much rarer than you would think. Although to some, it may seem selfish or cruel to divorce a chronically ill spouse or a healthy spouse who has cared for you during some very tough times, it doesn’t mean that your relationship is forever broken. Some couples divorce, and the healthy spouse remains a caregiver but is able to seek romantic relationships outside of that connection. Someone who is chronically ill may want to release their spouse from having to care for them, allowing them to have a life outside of their illness.
Do you have a chronic illness that has put an irreparable strain on your marriage? Contact our NJ Divorce Firm to Review Your Situation
If your partner is chronically ill and in need of more care than you can give, it is recommended to look for the support of a talented team of attorneys to help you carry your burden. At Bronzino Law Firm, we understand the difficulties chronic illness can cause in a relationship. We have helped many couples reach an agreeable separation in places like Rumson, Point Pleasant, Colts Neck, Holmdel, Belmar, Asbury Park across Ocean, and Monmouth Counties. With our experience in child custody issues and equitable distribution, the services we provide are just what you need to handle your divorce. Whether you are sick or you are part of a couple with a spouse affected by a chronic condition, our firm is committed to helping you navigate and effectively handle the unique challenges you may face when divorcing.
You should call us today if you have questions and are looking for legal counsel. Let us help you plan for your family by calling (732) 812-3102 for a consultation today. You can also fill out our online form and will hear from us shortly.