can a person with dementia file for divorce

Can a Person With Dementia File For Divorce?

To many, the constitution of marriage vows elicits a solemn commitment that binds the parties involved across all facets of their life. Talk of in sickness and in health.

So what happens when you have to divorce, yet you promised your partner you will tenderly care, adore, and treasure one another for a lifetime? What are some of the parameters that dictate a person with dementia when filing for a divorce? 

Dive in to get clear insights on dementia and divorce.

Can a Person with Dementia File for Divorce? (Quick Answer)

An individual with dementia can file for divorce if he/she can converse and arrive at informed choices. The divorce should be the same as any other individual’s divorce. When the person with dementia begins to deteriorate and is declared incapacitated, a guardian can be appointed to file for divorce on behalf of the dementia patient.

Understanding the Element of Capability by Dementia Patients

When a partner has a cognitive disorder such as dementia, it revolves around the extent to which they have the testamentary capability when seeking a divorce. It implies that they have the legal capacity to formulate choices for themselves and direct experts to take action on their behalf:

In addition, they have the authority, competence, and ability to decide about their financial and physical well-being. The notion of capability indicates that, unless determined contrary, an individual with dementia is considered to be of good cognitive functioning and capable of making decisions under the law.

Parameters to Consider for Divorce by Dementia Patients

Here are some things for dementia patients to consider when filing for a divorce:

  • Possessing the cognitive ability to comprehend their choices
  • Ability to articulate their interests and concerns
  • Legal presentations
  • Appointment of guardian when  incapacitated

Why do Dementia Patients file for Divorce?

I know you are still wondering how it is even possible for people with dementia to file for a divorce. Our contemporary world is painted with the notion that it is predominantly the healthy spouse who mainly gets to divorce individuals with dementia.

However, this article is not about an unorthodox battle of who gets to walk away first. Let’s dive into some of the reasons behind filing for a divorce for dementia patients:

Caregiver (Spouse) Burden

Across the various stages of dementia, it is evident that the spouse primarily takes the role of a  caregiver. As the condition progresses, the spouse becomes largely overwhelmed and drained.

This inflicts so much frustration on individuals with dementia seeing their loved ones undergoing so much suffering. Thus, they can seek divorce to relieve their spouses of the burden of taking care of them.

Emotional Rollercoaster

A series of rapid and uncontrolled emotions characterize dementia. Examples are sadness, despair, rage, disbelief, nervousness, confusion, and even alleviation.

Thus, dementia patients get concerned about their upcoming years, periods of uncertainty, and memory lapses, making them feel like divorce will be their best option.


People with dementia may often feel neglected by their partners, especially when taken to nursing homes. They are left in the hands of caregivers who are strangers to them, and this sometimes causes harm to their well-being.

The absence or even the presence of a minimal level of care, compassion, or understanding makes dementia patients feel detached and not valued. Consequently, they file for divorce due to the void and neglect inflicted on them.

Management of Assets

Dementia patients, too, experience an array of worries regarding issues affecting their assets and finances. It is common for healthy partners to sometimes seek divorce due to misappropriate assets and finances by dementia spouses.

However, looking keenly at the needs of dementia patients, some feel their partners are after their assets, especially where there is a big difference in age and social status. Sometimes, dementia patients lose complete trust and confidence in their partners when managing their assets.

How to Support Dementia Patients Filing for a Divorce

Regardless of the stage in which the dementia patient falls, you, as the spouse and primary caregiver, are mandated to ensure you provide the necessary support. The issue of divorce is mainly a sensitive matter, and dementia patients filing for divorce require complete guidance.

Below are some of the ways in which you can support dementia patients  filing for a divorce:

Understanding their Needs

As a partner to dementia patients filing for divorce, you must consider and understand their needs. This makes them feel appreciated, valued and their needs and choices respected without feeling pity or judged based on the illness.

Legal Support

Dementia patients need to be provided comprehensive legal support and counsel to ensure they fully comprehend their rights and the nature of divorce proceedings and protocols.


In cases where an individual fails to appear in a good mental state to seek a divorce, a guardian can file on his or her behalf.

Advocate for Alternatives

As a guardian or legal representative for the dementia patient, you can advocate for alternative methods such as legal separation or marriage counseling to help the partners.


Does dementia have an impact on marriage?

The prevalence of dementia causes a storm in one’s relationship/marriage regarding emotional management, communication, habit formation, and intimate relationships.

Are people with dementia able to exercise autonomy?

Dementia presents itself in various forms, and it is believed that such patients can exercise autonomy until proven to be incapacitated. Thus, they must be treated with respect and, where applicable, allowed to make informed choices.

Can a person with dementia change their mind after filing for divorce?

Dementia patients must have the testamentary capability when filing for divorce, and those lacking the needed legal and guardianship support can sometimes change their minds.

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