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Divorce risk higher when wife is seriously ill

Colorado couples know that there are many things that can put severe strain on a marriage. One of the most stressful is serious or chronic illness. While sickness, like hard times, can bring some couples closer together, it can pull others apart. A recent study from the University of Michigan shows the seriousness of the problem. Almost a third - 31 percent - of marriages in which one partner is seriously ill are ended by divorce.

The study also shows that when the wife is the sick spouse, the likelihood of divorce is even higher. The researchers did not keep track of which spouse asked for the divorce, but they did note that it is usually the woman. The researchers reviewed data about 2,717 couples, at least one of whom was over 50 when the study began.

Reasons for the disparity are not clear, although the Michigan researchers did offer some theories. One theory is that because society does not view men as caregivers, husbands may feel they are not up to the task. Under this theory, when the wife files for divorce it may be because she needs support and she would rather turn to her friends and other family than her husband.

When illness leads to divorce, it is critical for the spouse who is sick to get a fair financial settlement. That spouse should make sure they get enough in the property division to fund their health insurance and pay for any non-covered medical expenses. In some cases, an award of spousal support, also known as alimony, will be appropriate, especially if the marriage was of long duration and the sick spouse was dependent on the other's income.

Source: Time, "Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill," Alexandra Sifferlin, May 1, 2014

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