Separation and divorce are increasingly common among seniors. From pensions to placement in assisted living facilities, these splits hold unique repercussions for older couples. Not all complications involve retirement, however. If your spouse is suffering from dementia, you face an especially difficult separation process. Read on for insight into this unique situation — and helpful suggestions:
Consider Skipping Mediation
Mental capacity is critical in mediation. Your spouse may not be capable of making critical decisions regarding property division and alimony — and the lack of aggressive legal representation is a hallmark of mediation. Keep in mind that mental capacity is not an all-or-nothing concept; your spouse may be capable of handling this process under close guidance from a legal professional, but perhaps not in mediation. Your lawyer can provide greater insight into the concept of capacity and how it plays into your specific case.
The Possibility of Annulment
Depending on when you married and your spouse’s condition at the time, you could be eligible for annulment. While Minnesota is a ‘no fault’ state lacking grounds for divorce, annulment is based on grounds. If you can prove that your spouse was mentally incapacitated when you tied the knot, then your spouse legally could never consent to marriage in the first place — so your marriage is not valid.
Few spouses with dementia have minor children. Those who do can expect custody to fall with the healthy parent. Minnesota courts take each party’s physical and mental health into account when determining custody; a spouse with moderate to severe dementia may not be deemed capable of handling the rigors of parenting.
Protect Your Assets
Your spouse may require months, if not years, of medical care in the near future. Divorce can protect your retirement savings from being siphoned away to pay for this treatment. Speak with a trusted family law attorney and financial advisor to understand the financial ramifications of the care burden—and plan accordingly.
Separation is always tough, but dementia can quickly complicate matters. Your lawyer should advocate assertively on your behalf, but also be sympathetic to your spouse’s difficult situation. Work with a trusted law firm such as the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. to ensure the best outcome for both you and your ex.