For people going through a divorce in their 50’s or later, an increasing number are dealing with the issue of dementia as they go through the process of divorce.

Normally, these cases fall into two categories:

  1. A divorce resulting from one spouse having dementia; or
  2. One of the spouse’s parents who has dementia put such pressure on the marriage through needs and/or demands that the marriage falters.

Whether a spouse has dementia or one of the spouse’s parents, the collaborative process offers an opportunity to negotiate a divorce in a private, controlled environment.  This normally creates a much better opportunity for a positive outcome and those involved may come to realize that the soon-to-be-ex-spouse is not the enemy, dementia is.  This horrible disease and its slow creep have a way of making the most logical, sane people lose their minds, as well as the ability to focus.

Every case of dementia is unique.  For some, the disease first reveals itself through forgetfulness.  For others, only those close to the person may notice changes in decision making—making bad investments, unusual investments, or sharing more information with strangers than is normal historically.  When to take the keys to the car away from the person with dementia is normally a confrontation, even when a doctor is the one requiring this limitation.

Deciding to divorce a spouse with dementia may not mean the love is gone.  It may simply be that one spouse is creating liability (by refusing to quit driving or refusing to submit to a driving test and neurological checkup annually) or costs of care are becoming excessive and the spouse without dementia sees financial ruin on the horizon.

A recent Time Magazine Special Edition, The Science of Alzheimer’s, offers a bit of hope and guidance for those dealing with the disease.  If dementia in one form or another has compromised your marriage, consider a collaborative divorce as an option to control what you can as you move to the next phase of your life.

About the Author: Leslie Dolliver, founding member of Collaborative Divorce Austin, specializes in collaborative law, estate planning, family law, and Texas mineral rights law. She trained as a mediator while attending South Texas College of Law in Houston, TX to get her law degree. Leslie took some time off to be a stay at home mother and when she returned to work full time in 2006, she trained in the collaborative divorce process. She has her own practice in Lakeway, TX where she lives with her husband and their three children.

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