What can I do if I’m terminally ill and want to get dissolution from wife but she doesn’t want to divorce?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What can I do if I’m terminally ill and want to get dissolution from wife but she doesn’t want to divorce?

We have been separated for 11 years and there has been a court order for child support in place for 10 years and my wife is getting social security benefits for our daughter since I am disabled. I have lived with a wonderful woman for over the past 8 years now and I would like to marry her before something happens to me. When I called my legal wife to ask her to sign the papers she refused because she stated that she wants my social security when I die. I don’t have money to hire an attorney since I only make $1100 a month but a family member was going to pay the $400 it was going to take to file the paperwork ourselves. I am at a lose of what to do. My legal wife has not wanted anything to do with me until I became terminally ill and someone told her that she would be entitled to my benefits after I die as long as we stayed legally married. The woman that has been with me all these years has also been my full time caregiver since I became ill about 3 years ago and has never left my side. I love her with all my heart and want her to be my wife and since the doctors have told me my condition is getting worse I want to be able to marry her before my time comes so I don’t have the time or money for a long drawn out divorce. My home has been foreclosed on and I have no money or assets all she is after is the social security benefits and I am not sure what I can do at this point.

Asked on January 17, 2017 under Family Law, Ohio


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First of all your spouse, even if and when she becomes your ex-spouse, can collect Social Security survivor benefits if you predecease her. That is so long as she meets certain qualifications based on length of marriage, age and current marital status. To qualify for survivor benefits, an ex-spouse must: be at least 60 years old (50 if disabled and no age rule if caring for an ex’s child under age 16); have been married to the deceased ex-spouse for a minimum of 10 years; and not have remarried before age 60 (or if they did remarry before then that marriage must have ended). If all 3 qualifications are met, an ex-spouse is entitled to the same survivors’ benefits as a widow or widower. Further, benefits paid to an ex-spouse don’t in any way affect benefits paid that may be paid to an eligible surviving second spouse. As to the divorce, when one spouse wants to end a marriage but the other does not, a divorce may still be obtained. The fact is that when a spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, this can delay things it but it will not stop them. The remedy in such a situation is a "divorce by default". You can check about this on-line-and/or consult directly with a local divorce attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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