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Divorce and dementia

News that the motor billionaire executive Wolfgang Porsche is seeking a divorce from his wife citing a ‘dementia-like illness’ which has led to a change in her personality might strike a chord of worry in the many thousands of people living with dementia here in the UK.

According to Dementia UK, Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of progressive conditions (around 200) which affect the brain. This could include symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, problems with speech and understanding and general changes in behaviour and personality which get worse over time. Typically, Dementia affects people over 65, but it can sadly affect anyone at any age.

So, can you divorce your husband or wife if they have dementia?

The answer is yes you can apply for a divorce even if your husband or wife lacks mental capacity and cannot agree to a divorce or even take part in the divorce case. Your spouse would need to have someone who can act on their behalf and make decisions for them – a litigation friend who could be a family member, friend or a professional who can act on their behalf.

If there is no one willing to take on this role, then you can apply to the court to ask them to appoint a litigation friend. The Official Solicitor may agree to act as the litigation friend when there is no one else to do this.

Your spouse may qualify for legal aid to help to cover their costs. You may also be asked by the court to provide the details of your spouse’s doctor so it can ask for a certificate of capacity.

The Porsche divorce is not happening under English law, where changes introduced under The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act (2020) have created a process of No-Fault Divorce.  Neither party needs to provide a reason for the separation,  so there is no need to cite a medical condition or any other reason  for the divorce. The Act also introduced a new minimum timeframe of 20 weeks between the start of proceedings and when individuals may apply for a conditional order of divorce.

Divorce can be difficult at any time in a person’s life, but thankfully now changes to the law has removed many of the difficulties and unnecessary acrimony.

If you would like to discuss separation or divorce, get in touch with our matrimonial team today.

Julie Hobson is a partner and can be contacted at T: 01622 689700