Most marital vows include a promise to remain together in times of both sickness and health. But sometimes sickness can spur separation, especially if there are major, long-term disabilities involved. Other times, it’s purely a matter of unfortunate timing.
A 2015 study concluded illness onset is associated with higher risk of divorce – particularly if it was the wife who was sick. This is especially true for older couples who adhere to more stringent gender roles. Divorce among older couples has doubled over the last several decades, concurrent with the rising risk of health troubles beginning in middle age.
Let’s not forget also that some very loving spouses initiate divorce because it’s in the best interests of their ailing beloved - usually for health insurance and benefits purposes. We see this most frequently in cases of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or traumatic brain injury.
As East Brunswick divorce attorneys, we understand that ending a marriage isn’t easy even under the best of circumstances. Divorcing when your spouse has serious health issues can make every decision feel impossible. No matter your circumstances, our experienced, compassionate legal team will help you navigate the challenges.
Once You’ve Decided to Divorce
Health care planning is an important consideration in any divorce, but it’s central when divorcing a spouse who has serious health issues.
Employers typically cover health care costs, and couples typically decide together which family plan is best for their needs. That will change after divorce. If only one spouse is employed/qualifies for health insurance, the other will need to secure coverage elsewhere.
As a stop gap, there is federal Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA). The law mandates employer-extended health insurance coverage for the former spouses of employees for a maximum three years after divorce. Note, however, it’s only for workers of companies with more than 20 employees. It doesn’t apply to children, and it isn’t free. In fact, COBRA can be rather pricey. The higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay this as part of the divorce settlement.
Health insurance benefits are just one consideration. Your divorce lawyer will examine how the illness impacts the spouse’s ability to work and care for children and the expenses incurred beyond direct health care. Child custody, child support, retirement benefits, property distribution and alimony can all be impacted by a spouse’s illness.
How Will Alimony Be Determined if My Spouse is Sick?
It should be noted that in New Jersey, there is never a guarantee that alimony will be awarded. The court’s determination of alimony, its amount and duration are all predicated on the goal of equitable distribution of financial support for each spouse relative to the marital standard of living. The lower-earning or dependent spouse is paid by the other to address the financial inequities of divorce.
New Jersey state law requires courts to consider (among other factors) the age, physical condition and earning ability of both spouses. One’s serious or chronic illness will inevitably impact a person’s employability and degree of financial independence. The court will look at the specific elements of the illness, it’s degree, duration, likely progression and potential for improvement.
The following types of alimony are available to separating spouses in New Jersey:
- Limited duration alimony. This provides payments for a set time frame not exceeding the length of the marriage. It’s typically applicable to marriages that lasted less than 20 years.
- Open duration alimony. This type of alimony is awarded when a dependent spouse does not have equal, present or future earning capacity. It’s typically only awarded in marriages that have spanned 20 years, but exceptions have been made in cases where a dependent spouse was seriously, chronically or terminally ill.
- Reimbursement alimony. This is alimony paid when one spouse offered financial support to the other while he/she pursued a better education or workforce advantage.
- Rehabilitative alimony. This is alimony awarded to a spouse who is financially dependent while he/she pursues the vocational training or education necessary to have a better shot in the job market.
Our East Brunswick divorce lawyers are committed to helping our clients fight for what’s in their best financial and personal interests. We are meticulous in ensuring all relevant legal questions are asked and answered. Our goal is for you to walk away feeling positive and as prepared as possible for the next chapter.Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential