couple talking to nurseThis is the next post in my series discussing topics a married person may wish to consider prior to filing for divorce. While no person should stay in a marriage that they wish to leave, the divorce process will often go more smoothly if the filing party has their affairs in order first. In this post I will be discussing a topic that can be quite sensitive; how to handle a divorce if one spouse has health concerns that will be directly impacted by the end of the marriage.

The filing spouse should gather all pertinent information regarding health insurance prior to filing for divorce

Many spouses share a health insurance plan. This may be because one spouse’s place of employment offers a better plan than the others, or because one spouse takes care of the home while the other spouse is the provider. If a spouse does not work because of restrictive health conditions, and are dependent on their partner for health insurance, leaving that marriage can feel incredibly frightening. One does not want to lose health benefits, or access to treatment and affordable medication because they sought a divorce.

Prior to filing for divorce, if the filer is concerned about their health benefit options, they may wish to look into their policy. They can call their provider and see how long they can be carried on their spouse’s policy following a divorce. They may also wish to look into disability insurance, Medicare insurance, or private health care options, to find out if they can still receive their same treatment should their policy change. Gathering this information ahead of time can also reduce one’s anxiety of worrying about what will happen following a divorce. If the dissolution of the marriage is amicable and mutual, the couple may also wish to inquire about a legal separation instead of a divorce. Some states may provide the option of a legal separation, which would give both partners independence and a clean ‘break,’ from each other, but may allow one partner to continue on the other’s health insurance. Consult an attorney in your state if this is a viable option for your marriage.

A spouse who relies on their partner as their caretaker must consider what will happen post-divorce

It can be a hopeless feeling, if one wishes to leave their spouse, but depends on them for day-to-day caretaking tasks. Whether a spouse has a temporary or permanent disability that makes it difficult for them to dress, feed, or get around by themselves, relying on a partner one does not want to be with anymore can be difficult. Prior to filing for divorce, a spouse should find out how much their insurance covers in home health care, if their partner is not already receiving home health care benefits. One may also wish to ask a friend, or family for assistance, or find out the feasibility of moving into an assisted living situation. There may also be nonprofit programs, or assistance through religious or other community organizations that can be of assistance. If a man or woman wishes to leave their marriage but is afraid that they will not be physically capable to manage on their own, gathering all of the facts can help present them with all of their options.

Able bodied spouses may feel guilt over leaving a spouse who is physically dependent on them

In a divorce containing one partner who has a health concern, the leaving partner may be the partner who is ‘healthy.’ If one’s partner has a temporary or permanent disability or relies on the partner’s health insurance for treatments and medication, it can be very guilt-inducing to file for divorce. The spouse may wish to end the marriage, but not want to leave their partner in a vulnerable position. As mentioned above, gathering all information related to health insurance, caretaking options, legal separations, etc. can help make practical decisions that will not leave one partner in a place where their health is in jeopardy.

Whether you are a spouse with health concerns, or you are your partner’s caretaker, filing for divorce in this situation can bring up additional feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, a divorce will create new challenges and changes to both partners’ routines, that may take some time to adjust to. I am a divorce coach, who can help you prepare for these inevitable changes. By discussing them prior to divorce, it can help make the transition easier. If you believe you would benefit from pre divorce coaching, contact my office today. Coaching is done virtually, and I work with individuals in all fifty states.