What Is a Medical Divorce?

The term "medical divorce" may sound unusual, but it describes a phenomenon that is growing more popular.

In a medical divorce, a couple decides to legally separate or divorce to help protect their medical benefits, or they do so to help reduce medical expenses.

This article explores what a medical divorce entails, why it is becoming more prevalent, and the options couples have when facing this situation.

Understanding Medical Divorce

“Medical divorce” is not a legal term. Instead, it is a colloquial term for a standard divorce resulting from medical circumstances. Legally, it is simply a traditional divorce.

Couples who go through a medical divorce do not necessarily go their separate ways. They may continue to live as a married couple and often do. They are simply terminating the marriage to help them manage their finances. Staying married could block them from necessary benefits, or it could place an undue financial burden on one spouse.

Reasons for Pursuing a Medical Divorce

In many cases, medical divorce allows someone to qualify for Medicaid and other government assistance. Staying married could put them in a higher financial bracket, deleting their eligibility for these programs. Being legally single helps a person with health problems stay in these government programs.

Financial Implications of Medical Divorce

Impact on Healthcare Costs

This separation can open doors to state-funded healthcare programs that would otherwise be inaccessible. People with chronic illnesses often face a delicate balance between losing private insurance benefits and gaining public assistance. If medical expenses are holding you back, let a lawyer analyze your situation to help you determine the best financial path forward. You may find that getting legally divorced will improve your finances.

Asset Division

In a standard divorce, dividing assets is about making sure each party walks away from the marriage with fair compensation. Property division in a medical divorce is more about strategic planning.

For someone to qualify for Medicaid, their assets must fall below a certain threshold. When negotiating for property in a medical divorce, the couple must be careful. They want to make sure that the chronically ill spouse doesn’t receive too much property. If they do, they may not qualify for their essential benefits.

An attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of Medicaid eligibility. They may work in tandem with financial advisors to protect the interests of both spouses. The goal is to achieve a settlement that upholds the dignity and healthcare needs of the ill partner while safeguarding the healthier spouse’s financial future.

The Emotional and Social Aspects of a Financial Divorce

Coping with the Emotional Fallout

The emotional toll of a medical divorce is often as significant as the financial strain. Partners may grapple with feelings of guilt, grief, and isolation. Even though they are staying together and referring to one another as husband and wife, the loss of their legal recognition can create a real sense of grief.

During this time, both spouses should seek emotional support, whether through counseling, support groups, or confiding in trusted friends and family. Acknowledging and addressing these emotions is a critical step in the healing process, allowing both parties to move forward with resilience and hope for the future.

Social Stigma

Medical divorce can carry a social stigma, with misconceptions leading to judgment and isolation. Couples embarking on a medical divorce must foster open conversations about the legitimate reasons behind their decision.

It can be helpful to build a robust support network. Doing so can include connecting with people who have had similar experiences, joining support groups, or engaging with community resources. These networks provide emotional solace and practical advice, helping couples navigate the complexities of their new reality.

Planning for the Future Post-Divorce

Long-Term Care and Living Arrangements

After a medical divorce, planning for the ill spouse's long-term care becomes a priority.

Depending on the severity of the illness, considerations can include:

  • Moving to a specialized facility
  • Modifying a home environment
  • Hiring a full-time or live-in caretaker

Revisiting Estate Planning

After completing a medical divorce, it’s time to update your estate plan. Changes in marital status can significantly impact wills, trusts, and designated powers of attorney. Many couples will stay together as a married couple after a medical divorce. Therefore, they must overtly designate one another as beneficiaries. The state will not automatically grant inheritance to an ex-spouse.

After a medical divorce, couples should consider creating a healthcare power of attorney. This document can give one person medical authority over someone who has become incapacitated. In the event of a chronic illness, such powers may become necessary.

You may also be able to set up a special needs trust. These entities can help provide for someone with a chronic illness while allowing them to remain eligible for government benefits.

If your family is having difficulty keeping up with medical expenses, let Crossman & McNamee, LLC review your situation. We may be able to offer solutions. If a medical divorce is your best option, we can guide you through this process with sensitivity and compassion. You can schedule time with us online or call us at (937) 468-3796.