Any married couple who has been faced with a life-threatening illness knows that the stress resulting from the diagnosis and subsequent treatment puts the couple at great risk for marital discord. However, a recent study demonstrates that marriages are six times more likely to end in divorce when the spouse affected is the wife.
This study, conducted by researchers specializing in oncology, indicates that female gender is a very strong predictor of partner abandonment in patients who face serious medical diagnoses. Those conducting the study on cancer patients found that about 12% of the patients in the study inevitably separated or divorced. However, with regard to the gender of the patient, the study indicated that 21% of women faced divorce after the diagnosis, as compared to only 3% of men.
Perhaps most unnervingly, the study also demonstrated that when these marriages end in divorce or separation, the patient’s quality of care and quality of life were negatively impacted. Specifically, patients who no longer have spousal support are much more likely to end therapy or become disinterested in trying new cancer treatments.
These studies raise a number of questions: Should a seriously ill spouse seek legal counsel? If so, when should a seriously ill spouse hire a lawyer? If a husband leaves when his wife get sick, does it amount to abandonment? What might the ramifications be on health insurance? What might the ramifications be on child custody? What might the ramifications be on post separation support or alimony?