Dementia: Divorce or Judicial Separation?

01 March 2017

If you are no longer able to live with your husband or wife because of severe dementia, have you got any other options apart from divorce?

Living with someone who has dementia can be devastating. It can put a serious strain on relationships, and often the illness can leave couples feeling like they don’t recognise each other anymore.

If you or your loved one has dementia and you need of support Dementia UK can help. They offer guidance on how to live with dementia, and can also provide specialist nurses who work alongside families to help them cope.

Marriage Breakdown

Even though professional support is available, there are times when dementia forces married couples apart. This is more common in severe cases of dementia where the individual experiences drastic personality changes. He or she may become over-bearing, aggressive and angry. Some will also become irrational and start mentally or physically abusing their spouse.

These symptoms can begin before a diagnosis of dementia has even been made, so unless their spouse suspects the onset of a mental illness, their behaviour can seem totally unreasonable. Even if a diagnosis has been made, the other person may no longer feel comfortable living in the same property.

For couples who are facing this situation, the options can seem bleak. On the one hand a divorce may feel excessive, as the personality changes are not intentional and are beyond the individual’s control. But on the other hand, the other person may feel in danger, while any money or assets will be exposed to their spouse’s potentially reckless behaviour.

Judicial Separation

However, there is a potential solution, and that is Judicial Separation. A Judicial Separation is a legal separation, but it is not a divorce. This will allow you to start financial proceedings and thereby protect your share of all the matrimonial assets.

A Decree of Judicial Separation has three main effects:

  1. The spouses are no longer obliged to live together
  2. The Court can divide the matrimonial assets (including property), just as it can in divorce
  3. The Decree has an impact upon your Will, just as it does in divorce. This means your spouse no longer takes any benefit unless a new Will is made specifically stating that is to be the case

If your marriage has come under strain because of dementia but you do not want a divorce, a Judicial Separation could be the best way to proceed. It is a more amicable approach, which may be important if you feel the effects of dementia are not your spouse’s fault. Yet it still enables you to protect your finances.

A Judicial Separation may also be an option if you are going through a divorce and your ex-partner gets dementia, or already suffers with dementia.

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