Divorce Involving Disabilities Can Prove Challenging


  • Social Security Disability Insurance can be allotted to a divorced spouse of a disabled individual.
  • If a disability occurs during a marriage and the person has disability insurance from an employer, it can factor into divorce proceedings.
  • VA disability payment is not a marital or communal asset, if the disability incurred during military service.

In terms of who it can affect, divorce does not discriminate. Individuals of all backgrounds can find themselves facing marital issues, that lend themselves to the prospect of divorce.

For individuals who face the challenges of a disability, the prospect of a divorce can be a damaging turn of events, that can jeopardize one’s financial future.

Depending on the disability involved, it could affect the individual situation. The jobs of the divorcing individuals, how long the individual or individuals with a disability have been working, whether or not they have been displaced from their position or positions at any given time, whether or not Social Security Disability Insurance is at play, and child custody are all additional aspects that can affect the outcome of the divorce case.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to you and certain members of your family if you are “insured.” This means that you worked for a long enough time period and paid Social Security taxes, according to the Social Security office.

Social Security Disability Insurance can be allotted to a divorced spouse of a disabled individual if the disabled individual qualifies, the non-disabled individual was married to their spouse for over ten years, the non-disabled individuals, is at least 62 years old, is currently unmarried, and is not eligible for a larger Social Security payment on your own record, according to the Disability Benefits Help organization.

Disability insurance issues

Another source of funding that is often analyzed when discussing divorce and disability is disability insurance. This type of insurance is provided by your employer and helps supplement a percentage of your income.

However, many workplaces offer disability insurance as an option. Given that the odds of needing disability insurance are just over one in four, of today’s 20 year old individuals before they retire, according to the Council for Disability Awareness, it’s not always present in an employee’s utilized insurance plan.  Thus, when someone faces the prospect of being disabled, they do not always have the insurance necessary to offer financial assistance.

Furthermore, long-term disability insurance only supplements about two-thirds of your income if you can no longer do your job (or any job, depending on policy terms), according to the New York Times.

For individuals who find themselves in a situation where their spouse is their primary caregiver and is seeking a divorce, many aspects of care and future care will have to be changed. For example, the power of attorney designation will need to change, giving someone else the ability to make designs for you, in the event of your incapacitation. Given the animosity and emotions between an estranged couple that can come from the divorce experience, it’s understandable to want to protect yourself in the event of anything unfortunate occurring.

In the event that any sort of incapacitation prevents you from working during your divorce, spousal support can be requested. The court’s discretion dictates the calculation of alimony, in terms of amounts, and there is a list of factors that go into that calculation, including your age, your health, the length of your marriage, the standard of living you enjoyed together, whether the opposite spouse can afford to pay alimony, and whether or not you require the support in order to meet your reasonable needs, among others.

There also are questions regarding disability benefits and how they factor into the marital assets. If the disability was involved with military service, the Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, a federal law, exempted United States Department of Veteran Affairs’ payments from the division of assets upon a divorce. Thus, it cannot be considered marital or community property.

Emotional aspect

All of this does not even account for the emotional aspect of this situation. With the ending of a union between two individuals, there can often be residual feelings that can build over time, creating internal conflict to sort through. When one of the parties has a physical disability, it can become worse.

One would hope that an individual marrying someone with a physical disability would not undervalue them, that they would treat them as an equal and a partner as they enter a marriage. One would hope that one party would never look down on them or pity them for having a disability, thus when a divorce occurs, guilt for divorcing them wouldn’t subsequently enter the equation.

However, we, as individuals, are imperfect. Guilt can factor into the emotional tapestry of individuals experiencing a divorce, with or without any sort of disability involved. It’s important to remember that in seeking an improvement in your own life, you are not always wishing ill on the person you are distancing yourself from. Even for someone who once employed the role of a caretaker, that is not your only role in life, and that should not be all you are in your marriage.

In creating a lifetime partnership with an individual, you are entering an agreement that you hope will lend itself to the happiness you desire. Whether you or your partner employs any sort of disability, it’s still a partnership. It’s still a union that started with the intention of loving someone for the rest of your life, and even if the plan changed and things didn’t work out, you still have the capability to try again until you are in a better relationship.

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