When your spouse has a disability of any type, it adds an additional layer of stress to your divorce. Now this already emotionally tumultuous time is filled with extra responsibilities and concerns that must be addressed before your divorce can be finalized. If your spouse has a disability, you will need to contemplate whether they have the long-term capacity to support themselves without your assistance.
When it comes to divorcing a spouse with a disability, what do you need to consider first? Here are the first three questions you will want to start answering now:
1) What level of service do you currently provide for your disabled spouse?
The first thing you will need to do is accurately assess the amount of assistance that you provide for your spouse. Think about all of the things you do for them on a daily basis, including driving them to appointments, helping them shower, and running errands for them. After the divorce is over, these items will still need to be completed, even after they are living on their own.
In order to assess your own role in their care, consider making a detailed list of activities that you regularly assist them with. Make a list of the items that they could perform on their own, as well as the ones they would be incapable of completing without the assistance of another person. An honest evaluation of their abilities will help you answer the next question with more accuracy.
2) Will your spouse need additional services?
Without your daily assistance in caring for them, your evaluation of the level of service you provide them with should help you determine if they will need additional services in your absence. In order to continue their daily care in your absence, you may need to add professional services to maintain their standard of living.
What will the exact arrangements need to be? There could be some level of involvement from family or close friends, combined with professional services. Arrange for a part-time or full-time caregiver, or at least obtain a few estimates of what the overall expenses will be for them to continue their daily care. Now is a great time to begin considering whether your spouse can cover the costs of their current income on their own, or if they will need government assistance.
Based on their newly single income, your spouse may qualify for social security and disability, which can greatly assist the two of you to figure out how to cover the cost of their care without obligating you to continue performing it day after day.
3) Can you afford spousal support?
Are you a significantly higher earner, or is your spouse incapable of earning enough to support themselves financially due to their disability? If so, you may end up paying spousal support to contribute towards their necessary care.
Because your spouse has a disability, your required level of spousal support could typically be higher than the general population. Spousal support is often mandated to help cover the cost of services and care that your spouse will not be able to afford, based on current income or benefits.
Spousal support is often considered permanent in these situations, at least until your spouse has a change in disability status, remarries, or receives new or additional benefits, which would change the necessity of your spousal support. The severity and type of their disability will certainly play a role in determining the monthly amount of spousal support.
This scenario is also possible: you may be required to pay for their health insurance or assist with medical bills, in addition to paying spousal support. As a part of your divorce agreement, you may be able to keep a spouse on an employer-sponsored healthcare plan.
Divorcing with a Disability
It should be no surprise that divorcing a spouse with a disability is likely to entail a greater degree of planning than may otherwise be necessary. Remember, to start off on the right foot, make sure you have a thorough, accurate understanding of what you currently do for your spouse, as well as what would need to be done in your absence. Solutions can vary from having the assistance of a family member to hiring a caregiver.
While you should not remain in a failing marriage that makes you unhappy, you will definitely need to consider the higher rates of spousal support. Alongside your spouse, begin investigating what additional benefits or programs they qualify for, and assess what you can reasonably afford on your income.
Divorce is difficult, even under the best of circumstances, but adding a disability into the equation creates a new level of difficulty. By answering these three questions in advance, your current divorce will begin on the path towards future freedom and financial security for you and your spouse.