Family Health Legal Library

Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise

Rights, Duties and Obligations in Marriage

The purpose of this chapter is to explore, in general terms, how a major injury from a car accident or a diagnosis of a major health problem such as cancer would affect certain issues related to families. Often, these medical problems will severely impact the rights of a husband or wife in a marriage, divorce, separation, custody battle, alimony or support battle and related family law problems.

There should be no question that in these cases one should consult with an attorney for a full review of the particular facts of your own case. This general discussion is not intended to be a substitute for a full-blown analysis by a qualified attorney. Instead, this is just general information.

The legal consequences of a life-threatening injury or medical condition that apply, depend upon your marital status when the debilitating event occurs. If you are single, as long as you are not dependent upon your parents, such an illness or condition does not really, as far as the law goes, impact others in most instances. This is not to ignore the mental or emotional impact of such a condition or diagnosis, but the purpose of this discussion is to focus on the legal consequences.

If you are married, it is important to understand the nature of a marriage relationship to understand how such a diagnosis, injury or condition would affect your family legally. It is important to understand your rights, duties and obligations in a marriage.

In a marriage, both parties have equal rights in almost every state in the United States. This includes the rights to make contracts, to incur debts, to carry on business relationships, and to allocate your money to the marriage or not. Each party can purchase a house, for example, and although realtors and sellers may be advised not to go through with the deal, a spouse is legally entitled to purchase a house without consent of the other spouse.

Also, any spouse can be financially dependent on the other, and has no legal obligation to go into the world and earn money for the marriage. There may, however, be an obligation to care for children that might affect this choice.

What is critical to understand is who owns what in a marriage. This determination varies by state law and is only intended to be general discussion. Also, some states have a body of law [varying by state also] that is called "community property" law. Whether this exists in your state makes a huge difference as to the answer of questions of this nature.

Throughout each of the following sections, we will analyze the hypothetical medical issue: What if the father of two children who is the only breadwinner in the family is crippled, and paralyzed in a car accident at the age of 36.

Marital Issues When Medical Problems Arise
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