Splitting for survival: Can a “medical divorce” save a life?

Splitting for survival: Can a “medical divorce” save a life?

"Medical divorce" sounds like something out of a TV show, but it's a real thing. Couples may, in fact, opt for a medical divorce, but not because they're literally sick of each other. The reason, more often than not, is a pragmatic one -- a way to avoid ballooning medical bills and the strain they can put on an otherwise fine marriage.

We’re here to shed some light on this unconventional realm of family law.

In sickness and in health, till medical bills do them part

Medical divorce involves ending a marriage on the grounds of a spouse's medical condition, with the primary aim of accessing essential financial and healthcare resources. While it may sound like a peculiar move, it's an actual legal strategy that can have a tangible impact on the lives of those facing crippling medical expenses. Some couples may consider this strategy to qualify for Medicaid or other public assistance programs that have income or asset limits.

By legally parting ways, both parties may become eligible for government assistance or health insurance that can help pay off burdensome medical costs.

Medical divorce has been portrayed in the media, and here are two such fictionalized accounts of how medical divorce works:

  • In the short film Medical Divorce, filmmaker Scott Danzig brings to life the story of an elderly Jewish couple battling soaring medical costs. When faced with an impossible burden, they consider divorce. Through sharp wit and emotional depth, the film sheds light on the reality of medical divorces in which a couple wants to stay together, but skyrocketing healthcare expenses make it impossible to do so. As a result, they legally separate so the ailing partner can acquire or maintain insurance.
  • In an episode of the medical drama New Amsterdam (Season 1, Episode 15 “Croaklahoma”), the topic of medical divorce is tackled. The storyline revolves around a child who faces rejection of a recent heart transplant due to the parents' inability to afford the necessary post-operative medication, which insurance doesn't cover. In a surprising twist, one of the doctors suggests the unthinkable: getting a divorce. It’s shocking, but there is a good reason behind it. When the couple divorce, the mother and child could potentially qualify for Medicaid with the woman becoming a single parent with no income, thereby gaining access to the much-needed medications. Ethical? That's up for debate. Does being eligible for Medicaid justify the divorce? And, most importantly, will love conquer all? So many intriguing questions to explore.

Before you swallow the bitter pill of medical divorce, here’s what you need to know

If you're considering a medical divorce, here are a few essential tidbits you should keep in mind.

First, consult with a family law attorney who can guide you through this legal maze. A family law attorney can help you navigate the intricacies of eligibility criteria, jurisdictional requirements, and the necessary documentation that would make even the most organized person question their sanity.

The legal landscape can vary, so it's crucial to have a trusted legal professional who has a keen eye for loopholes by your side.

Bear in mind too that medical divorce is not some kind of get-rich-quick scheme. Even after the divorce, the healthy spouse is still on the hook for providing financial support to the ill spouse. And if you've got kids in the picture, a medical divorce can have a major impact on them. It's crucial to think about how this decision might affect your little ones before diving in headfirst.

If you're seriously contemplating this option, we repeat, seek out a seasoned family law attorney. They'll be your guiding light, helping you understand all your rights and options in the topsy-turvy world of medical divorce.

If you need top-notch assistance with your family law case in Washington State, the team to call is Buckingham, LaGrandeur, & Williams. With our expertise, those pesky legal loopholes won't stand a chance. Call us today.