What Happens if You Divorce a Disabled Spouse?

What Happens if You Divorce a Disabled Spouse?

When embarking on the divorce process, understanding the implications it has on a disabled spouse becomes critical. For those asking, “What happens if you divorce a disabled spouse?” there are several key factors to consider. Because your spouse has a disability, you may find that your court-ordered level of spousal support exceeds what’s typically expected.

Colorado family law stipulates that lifelong support is awarded in extreme cases, like when a disabled person is unable to work. This could mean continued obligations to provide health insurance and disability benefits.

With a skilled family law attorney, navigating the divorce agreement can become less daunting. Stick around as we delve deeper into this multifaceted issue, equipping you with the knowledge you need to approach this delicate situation.

What are the Things to Consider When Divorcing Your Disabled Spouse

Divorcing a disabled spouse presents unique challenges, both emotionally and legally. A comprehensive understanding of key issues such as social security disability insurance (SSDI), spousal support, and the disability status of your spouse can streamline the process.

First, it’s important to understand how Social Security benefits and SSDI benefits work. If your spouse is disabled, they might be receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration. These benefits can significantly affect your divorce agreement, particularly when determining alimony payments.

Alimony, or spousal support, is a significant aspect of any divorce. However, when your spouse is disabled, the court may require you to pay spousal support higher than typical cases due to their inability to work or earn sufficient income. This can be influenced by factors such as the nature and severity of the disability, including physical or mental impairments, and the disabled spouse’s income potential.

Child support payments are another crucial factor. If you have children, the court will consider their needs, the income of each parent, and the disabled parent’s capability to contribute to child support. This is another instance where SSDI benefits can come into play, as these may offset some child support obligations.

Another significant aspect is health insurance. You may be required to continue providing health insurance to your spouse post-divorce, which can impact your financial situation. Also, business interests, if any, should be considered during the division of assets.

Lastly, understanding the potential for government assistance for your disabled spouse can affect the divorce agreement. Certain programs or resources may offset the need for higher alimony or child support payments.

How Colorado Courts Determine Spousal Maintenance Awards

In Colorado, courts consider several factors when determining spousal maintenance awards as stated in the Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-114. These factors include your and your spouse’s gross income, the marital property allocated to each spouse, each spouse’s financial resources, and reasonable financial need as established during the marriage.

Gross income is a key factor, as it provides a clear picture of the economic disparity between spouses. The courts will consider each spouse’s income, including potential income from separate or marital property, and any SSDI benefits.

The distribution of marital property also influences the maintenance award. If one spouse receives a significant portion of the marital property, it may decrease the amount of maintenance the other spouse is awarded.

Financial resources play a critical role as well. The court takes into account not only current financial resources but also future earning potential. For instance, if a spouse is disabled but has significant assets or business interests, they might not need as much maintenance.

The court also looks at the financial need established during the marriage. This means considering the standard of living the couple enjoyed while married and whether the spouse seeking maintenance can maintain this standard independently.

Lastly, the court also considers the tax implications of the maintenance award. If the paying spouse can deduct the alimony payments from their federal income tax, and the recipient spouse counts it as taxable income, it might affect the amount awarded.

Divorcing a disabled spouse can be complex, and legal guidance is often needed. Always consult with a family law attorney to ensure you navigate this process correctly and fairly.

What if Your Spouse Get Disabled After Divorce?

In Colorado, it’s important to note that modifying alimony orders post-divorce is not a straightforward task. Courts may entertain a modification request only when a spouse can demonstrate a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances.” In cases where a significant disability arises after the divorce, this could be considered a substantial change, potentially leading to an increase in alimony payments.

Consider a case in Colorado. A couple was married for over two decades before divorcing. The wife, who had primarily been a homemaker, received an initial alimony of $130 per month in the 1970s, which was later increased to $195 per month at her request.

However, a severe car accident years later left her temporarily dependent on a walker and unable to work for a full year. This drastic change in circumstances saw her turning to relatives for basic needs, including housing. Given this situation, she petitioned the court for an increase in alimony, which her ex-husband contested.

The appeals court took into account her financial situation – her best monthly income in the year following the accident was $145. Her injuries also limited her ability to perform manual labor associated with her jobs. In stark contrast, her ex-husband had been running a successful business for decades and enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.

Taking into account the newly single income, the significant disability, and the ex-husband’s ability to pay, the court increased the alimony to $600 per month. This case underscores the possibility of modifying alimony based on significant changes in circumstances after a divorce. Additional support could greatly assist with medical bills and the costs of living, especially if the disabled spouse is eligible for supplemental security income.

It also highlights the importance of considering all potential scenarios in divorces involving disabilities and the potential need for adjustments based on future circumstances.

How Family Lawyers Can Help

Navigating the complexities of a divorce involving a disabled spouse can be challenging. This is where the expertise of family lawyers can prove invaluable. Family lawyers have the legal knowledge and experience to guide you through the process, ensuring that all relevant factors are taken into consideration.

When paying spousal support, several aspects need to be evaluated, such as the nature of the disability, the ability of the disabled spouse to work, and the financial capabilities of the paying spouse. A family lawyer can help assess these factors and negotiate an agreement that is fair and legally sound.

If your former spouse becomes a full-time caregiver due to their disability, a family lawyer can help arrange appropriate financial support. This could involve negotiating compensation for the caregiving spouse or arranging for a professional caregiver’s services. Family members often shoulder the burden of providing care for disabled people, and a family lawyer can ensure they are adequately compensated for their time and effort.

In some cases, a disabled spouse may be unable to perform household chores or maintain gainful employment. A skilled family lawyer can help argue for permanent alimony in such cases, providing a continuous source of financial support for the disabled ex-spouse.

Family lawyers can also navigate the complicated process of dividing assets and debts, ensuring that the disabled spouse’s needs are adequately met. They can provide advice on matters related to social security benefits, medical insurance, and other relevant areas.


Divorcing a disabled spouse involves a unique set of challenges. It’s crucial to approach this process with sensitivity, understanding, and the necessary legal knowledge. With the right legal guidance, you can ensure a fair and equitable resolution that respects the rights and needs of all involved parties.

At CNL Law Firm, located in Aurora, Colorado, we have the expertise to help you navigate this complex process. We understand the unique challenges of divorcing a disabled spouse and are committed to providing comprehensive legal support.

Schedule a consultation with us today and let us help you secure a future that respects your needs and the needs of your disabled ex-spouse.

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