Living with a husband or wife who has dementia can be more than some spouses can cope with, especially when there were marital difficulties for a long time prior to the dementia diagnosis.
Although there is an increasing amount of support available and understanding of the impact of a dementia diagnosis on the family, for some married couples the right option is divorce. That is particularly the case when the breakdown of the marriage is not thought to be due to the personality changes that sometimes occur following the onset of dementia.
Divorce proceedings and dementia
Whether the dementia diagnosis has played any part in the reasons for the marriage breakdown there are likely to be feelings of guilt about the divorce and worry about how a spouse who is ill will face the future.
A diagnosis of early onset dementia can be particularly cruel when a husband or wife is relatively young. However, a spouse can find the situation at home equally unbearable.
As a Whitefield divorce solicitor, I have advised a number of spouses who have contemplated separating or divorcing after there has been a diagnosis of dementia. Many are loath to take legal advice, as they fear judgement by family, a solicitor or the court. It is an impossible situation to be in and I recommend that legal advice is taken so that you know what your options are.
Financial settlement and dementia
If you decide to separate, it is important that you get specialist legal advice. This is because in some financial and pension circumstances it will be in both of your interests not to get divorced. In other financial and pension circumstances it will be important to get divorced, rather than just live apart, so the court can make a pension sharing order.
When you are thinking about a separation or a divorce most people do not want to base their decision on whether to get divorced or not on financial considerations but the impact of not getting expert advice can have a massive impact on your retirement and personal and financial circumstances.
Many people worry about how a dementia diagnosis will affect a financial settlement. The court takes a number of factors into account when deciding what a fair and reasonable financial settlement is. One of those factors is the health of the husband and wife. A dementia diagnosis means that a spouse’s needs will be carefully considered by the court. However, the court will aim to make a financial court order that meets the needs of both husband and wife.
Dementia and taking part in divorce and financial settlement court proceedings
People also worry about whether a spouse will understand divorce and financial proceedings and think that they cannot get divorced if their spouse cannot play a part in court proceedings and instruct a solicitor. If a spouse does not have capacity to instruct a solicitor or make decisions you can still get divorced and reach a financial settlement. That is because court rules provide for your spouse to be represented in the court proceedings and their interests protected.
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How can Evolve Family Law help?
The decision to separate or divorce is never easy. It is even harder when a spouse is ill. In my experience as a Whitefield divorce solicitor, it is possible to divorce with dignity after a diagnosis of dementia as in many situations, whilst a spouse cannot cope sharing a home, they want their spouse to be provided for. The first step is to look into your options so you can make an informed decision about what is right for you.
For advice about separation or divorce or financial settlement options please contact us.