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This is really two questions: First: Does a spouse’s disability enter into a Pennsylvania divorce? Second: Does a spouse’s disability enter into a low-cost, simple, uncontested no-fault divorce?

I will answer the second question first because it has a simpler answer. If both parties agree on all of the details in getting a low-cost, simple, uncontested, no-fault divorce, the disability of either or both spouses will not come into play; however, there is one possible exception to this. If either spouse is found by a medical professional to be psychologically or emotionally unable to either participate in or consent to the proceedings, then such a divorce cannot be undertaken. In such a case, the services of an experienced local law firm would be required at great expense and while the divorce may ultimately be granted, the party filing the case may be required to accept continued financial responsibility for the mentally incapable ex-spouse.

Of course, there are other types of disabilities, most frequently physical ones, ranging from insignificant to totally debilitating. An important question is whether or not the disability happened before or during the marriage. In a messy, expensive, contested divorce – sometimes they cannot be avoided – the Court is likely to play a major role in deciding how a disability will affect the outcome, typically through the fair division of the marital assets and the ordering of the payment of alimony. The overriding concern is to minimize the possibility of either party – for this discussion, we are speaking really of the party with the disability – becoming a burden on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s public assistance program. The Court will not allow that to happen if the spouse who does not have a disability has the financial wherewithal to prevent it. Courts have bifurcated divorces which means allowing the divorce to become final but requiring that the finances be worked out to the Court’s satisfaction.

If someone marries another who has a disability, the Court, in event of a divorce, may say that such a person knew or should have known into what kind of situation they got themselves. If the disability occurs during marriage, many things come into play: The length of the marriage, the length and seriousness of the disability, whether or not the disability has been or is likely to worsen, whether or not the person suffering the disability could take or is taking steps to minimize the effects of the disability (the Court may have less sympathy for someone who, for example, with diet and exercise, could improve their lives but chooses simply not to do so) are all among many other considerations.

As can be seen, many variables come into play in determining what effect, if any, a disability would have in a divorce. Each case will be different and if you are in this situation, the sooner you seek the advice of an experienced divorce attorney, the sooner you will have an idea as to what your future holds.