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When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

When One Spouse Has Serious Health Problems

After 28 years, Olivia and Simon’s loveless marriage sputtered to an end. Before they could finalize their divorce, however, Simon learned he had Stage 2 prostate cancer. He and Olivia needed time – and the advice of their respective counsel – to assess the affect his serious health problems had on their divorce.

Health Insurance and Medical Bills

People in the middle of a divorce proceeding may be concerned about one of their biggest expenses – health insurance. This is especially true if one spouse has been paying the insurance premium for the other. Each divorce may be decided on a case-by-case basis.

In some situations, the insured spouse may continue paying their ex-spouse’s premiums as part of their settlement. In fact, the California Family Code states that health and medical insurance should be maintained until the divorce has become final.

Some couples may decide that the uninsured spouse should seek COBRA coverage. This option, though expensive, may be necessary if one of the spouses has a serious medical condition.

In a community property state like California, marital assets and marital debts are split between spouses. Medical bills incurred during the marriage, then, are likely to be considered the responsibility of both spouses.

Mental Health Concerns

If one spouse is mentally ill or lacks the ability to make decisions, the other spouse can usually obtain a divorce. The court may require medical examinations before granting the divorce. Also, just because one spouse suffers from mental illness does not mean the other spouse receives more of the marital property. Assets and debts still become part of the marital property.

Estate Planning

A complete estate plan typically includes a financial power of attorney, a living will, and a Physician’s Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Parties to a divorce should make sure their estate planning documents are updated, especially when one partner is ill.

For example, when Olivia and Simon finalize their divorce, they need to change their estate planning documents. It’s especially important for Simon to prepare estate planning documents that relate to medical and financial decisions because his medical condition may require others to make medical decisions for him. If he named Olivia as his agent, she most likely will no longer want to serve.

Call to Learn More About Preliminary Financial Disclosures and Your Divorce.

In addition to legal decisions, Olivia faced tough moral and ethical dilemmas. People dealing with a divorce and a seriously ill spouse may decide to continue with the divorce, stop the divorce, or file for legal separation until they decide what is best. An experienced California divorce attorney can suggest options that are right for your situation.

Judy Burger is a California Certified Family Law Specialist, and founder of the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger. Please call our offices at 415-293-8314 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys. We assist clients along the Northern to Central California Coast.

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