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Can You Divorce Your Spouse if They Have Dementia?


You may have vowed to love and cherish your spouse in sickness and in health, until death do you part. However, keeping this view is not always easy, especially if your spouse develops a terminal illness such as dementia. A person can live with dementia for many years, which can be frustrating for their caregiver spouse.

Taking care of someone with a cognitive disorder such as dementia is a huge challenge. A person with dementia not only has memory problems but problems affecting their entire body and personality. As the disease progresses, the person becomes more frail and less mobile. They may eat and talk less and sleep more. They may develop incontinence. They may develop changes to their personality and become irritable and angry.

A person with dementia cannot do things they used to do, such as drive, bathe themselves, dress themselves, or feed themselves. They may require 24/7 care, putting this burden on their spouse.

Over time, a spouse may be done with the marriage. They may feel as though they can no longer care for their spouse. They may wonder if they can legally divorce their spouse, even though it may seem morally wrong.

The law varies from state to state. In Florida, divorce is only allowed if the marriage is irretrievably broken or if there is mental incapacity of one of the spouses. Dementia would meet the requirement of mental incapacity. However, if you are using that reason for your divorce, then you may have to wait a while. A divorce is not allowed under state law unless the spouse has been deemed incapacitated for at least three years prior to the divorce filing. So if you just found out yesterday that your wife has dementia, you cannot file for divorce right away. You have to wait three years.

This could be a long three years. The average person lives with dementia for 8-10 years. Some live for 15-20 years with the disease. So if you’re waiting for your spouse to die, you could be waiting much longer than you expected.

If you do qualify for a divorce, notice of the proceeding will be served upon the nearest blood relatives or guardian of the incapacitated person. That person will be entitled to appear in court and hear the issues.

So while you have the right to divorce a spouse with dementia, it will no doubt be a difficult decision. You may love your spouse, but you simply may not be able to care for them as you used to, especially if you are older, immobile, or have a medical condition yourself. Ultimately, you have to live the life that’s best for you.

Seek Legal Help

It may seem harsh to divorce someone with dementia, but being married to someone with a cognitive disorder is no walk in the park. Your spouse may develop memory or personality issues that can make it challenging to live with them.

Ready to end your marriage? Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer Edward J. Jennings, P.A. can help you understand if divorcing a spouse with dementia is an option for you. Fill out the online form or call 954-764-4330 to schedule a consultation


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