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Divorcing Someone With Alzheimer’s Disease

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When we think of divorce, we generally think of unhappiness grounded in one spouse’s intolerable behaviors.  Whether it be an intemperate behavior, reliance on alcohol, infidelity, or someone who simply takes their spouse for granted and is too lazy to make the marriage work, dissatisfaction with one’s mate forms the basis of one’s desire to terminate the marriage.  But what if a spouse is blameless—or worse, dependent on the partner who wishes to divorce?  More and more, elderly Americans are battling with life-altering diseases like Alzheimer’s. Physically healthy and with years of life ahead, mentally they are just a shadow of their former selves.  When diseases such as these change the personality and behavior of your loved one, is divorce a possibility? 

Facts About Alzheimer’s 

Over 6 million people live with Alzheimer’s here in America, and one-third of seniors will have struggled with it, or dementia, before they die. That means there are 11 million unpaid caregivers assisting these patients at home, devoting billions of hours to them. This debilitating disease progresses over time, with patients living from four to eight years with the disease—and sometimes as many as 20 years.  While early symptoms—forgetting names, recently read materials, and losing items—are tolerable, the disease becomes more ominous with time.  Patients with middle-stage Alzheimer’s may not be able to recite their address or phone number and may experience confusion about common issues like choosing what to wear or knowing how to get home from the grocery store.  Behavioral changes including frustration, suspicion, or compulsive behaviors may emerge, and delusions may start to occur. The patient may become violent.  After some years of this, the patient will ultimately have limited ability to walk or sit unassisted.  They will experience difficulty communicating and will lose basic awareness.  Ultimately, they will have difficulty swallowing and fighting off infection.  Without question, the toll on their caregivers is heavy.  When divorce is considered, the guilt associated with the decision can be overwhelming.  Nonetheless, mental incapacity is one on the legal grounds for divorce in Florida.

Florida Law 

Florida law requires a three-year waiting period from the time incapacity was adjudicated before a divorce can be granted, regardless of which spouse is seeking the divorce. This is designed to protect infirm individuals from being abandoned by their spouses or otherwise exploited. If someone is mentally incompetent, the court will likely appoint a guardian to oversee matters and look out for the interests of the individual.  You will have to consider the needs of your spouse following divorce; what will the associated costs be, and how will care be addressed? Depending on the length of the marriage and other factors, your moral obligation, as well as your legal obligation, must be addressed.

Compassionate Legal Advice 

Divorcing someone with diminished mental capacity can be an achingly difficult endeavor.  Now, more than ever, you need the legal advice of a Boca Raton divorce attorney whose compassion is rivalled only by his thoroughness and tenacity.  The path ahead will be difficult.  At WiseLieberman, we will be by your side every step of the way.  Contact us for a confidential consultation today.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.052.html

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