Divorce Someone Who Is in a Coma? [WHAT TO KNOW]

Wondering if you can divorce someone who is in a coma? You can divorce a comatose spouse if all legal requirements are met. Your spouse cannot consent to the divorce; therefore, strict legal procedures need to be followed before you can go ahead. The judge will go ahead and appoint a “Guardian ad litem” to represent the comatose spouse’s legal interests.

Tragedy can strike unexpectedly at any time in our lives and nobody is emotionally prepared for the worst to happen. After a terminal unexpected illness or death of a spouse, the grieving process begins, and eventually, over time, the wounds in your heart start to heal and you finally feel ready to move on with your life. But what happens if the tragedy landed your spouse in a coma? If a lot of time passes and hope for recovery becomes lost, what then? Can you divorce someone when they are in a coma?

Based on the medical condition of the unconscious spouse and the circumstances of the case, the court can refuse to grant the divorce. If you want to know more about this topic, this article will explain everything you need to know before filing for divorce from a spouse who is in a coma.

woman in a coma being examined by nurse, blurry

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Is It Possible to Divorce a Comatose Spouse?

The last thing anyone with a comatose spouse actually wants to do is get a divorce. However, time stands still for no one and, when a lot of time has passed, divorce can gradually become the only answer for moving on with your life after the tragedy. Before you can even consider filing for divorce, an attending physician needs to present a statement that the patient is not expected to gain consciousness at any point in the future.

The court will assess the physician’s statement and the current duration of the coma to justify delaying a judgment. Only when the patient’s medical situation becomes more settled and the severity of the coma is established will the court allow the divorce procedures to proceed.

If the patient has been in a comatose state for a very long time, only then will a judge become inclined to grant the divorce. Whatever the case may be, divorcing your spouse while they are in a coma will involve very complex litigation. The spouse filing for divorce will require consideration and advice from a legal professional.

How Long Should You Wait Before Divorcing a Comatose Spouse?

The length of a coma is unpredictable, and some can last for days while others carry on for years. In the worst case, the person never wakes up again, and then the family may be faced with the difficult decision of taking their loved one off of life support.

if your spouse has been in a coma for a very long time, with no hope of ever regaining consciousness, and you have met someone else over time and feel ready to let go and move on, you can divorce them.

The difficulty comes in when you meet someone before that time. Should you reject the new love interest because your spouse still has a chance to wake up from their coma, or can you decide to get divorced and pursue this new relationship?

Some states prohibit the act of divorcing a comatose spouse before a minimum of five years has passed. Such states will not grant the divorce, and you will have to wait a full five years before you can finally separate from your spouse after the tragic incident.

How Long Does It Take to Finalize the Divorce?

If a person is in a coma, you will need to request Judicial intervention to serve the patient in some other way as they are physically unable to accept the divorce papers. The court usually appoints a legal guardian to represent the comatose spouse.

The most crucial requirement for finalizing your divorce is an expert report from your spouse’s doctor. The report must state that the patient has little to no brain activity and minimal chance for survival. In light of this information, the judge could grant the divorce.

If the report states that the comatose individual is “brain-dead” or experiencing rapid “brain-death,” a judge could grant the divorce within only sixty days of filing. The procedures are rigorous, expensive, and intensive and require sixty to one hundred days to get everything done, whereafter, the divorce will be finalized.

A Moral Dilemma: What About “In Sickness and in Health?”

Deciding to file for divorce from your spouse, who has fallen into a coma, is probably one of the hardest decisions a person could ever have to make. The words “in sickness and health” that you said to your loved one the day you got married resonate in your mind, and you find yourself in a moral dilemma.

You vowed to stay with them no matter what but, unfortunately, life had other plans for you. However, when a lot of time has passed, and the condition of your comatose spouse has not improved at all, it may be time for you to let go, forgive yourself, and move on. This is especially true if it has been medically determined that your spouse has no hope of ever regaining consciousness and has no significant brain activity remaining. Essentially at that point, they are being kept alive artificially and the person you loved and married is no longer of this earth.

If you decide to file for divorce, speak to your parents-in-law to help you to overcome this dilemma. Telling them how you feel and explaining that your decision is heartbreaking, yet necessary to give you a chance to move forward with some hope of future happiness, will give you and them some closure.

It might be the best decision you make because if you know that there is a significant chance that your spouse will die after a long struggle in their coma, losing years of your life by holding onto false hope could do you more harm than good. Remember that your spouse would have wanted you to be happy, even if it means you are happy without them.

What If Your Spouse Awakens from Their Coma Years Later?

So, you’ve finally moved on, been granted your divorce, and are in a much better emotional state after the tragic occurrence of your spouse being in a coma with no hope of recovering consciousness. Then, you get the unexpected call from the hospital saying that your ex-spouse has woken from their coma. What do you do next?

In such an event where many years have passed, and you have started your new life while your ex-spouse remained in a coma, the doctor may still request that you visit them. The patient will be extremely confused, may not know how long they have been comatose or understand how much time has passed, and you might be the only person they remember.

The choice remains yours whether or not you want to assist them through their recovery, but it is not a legal requirement, and you do not have to remarry them. This decision is completely up to you and how you feel about the situation.

Can You Claim Your Comatose Spouse’s Life Insurance?

In most cases, if the policyholder is in a coma but is still alive, life insurance policies do not pay out until the patient is deceased and has been issued a death certificate.

Suppose you want to get a divorce from a comatose spouse, and you are named as the primary beneficiary. In that case, you will receive their life insurance when they pass or when the insurance policy’s term expires with term life insurance, even if you are legally divorced.

Situations Where Life Insurance Policies Won’t Be Paid Out

Fraud on the life insurance application – If any of the information on the life insurance policy is fraudulent, the policy will not paid out. If the patient is to wake from their coma, they will be held accountable for the offense.

Expiration of the term on a term life insurance policy is not uncommon for policyholders to forget to renew their life insurance policies. If this is the case with your comatose spouse, the policy will, unfortunately, revoke the payout.


Divorcing a comatose spouse might be extremely difficult and emotional, but you may eventually come to the realization that you still have to live on, and live your life despite the absence of your spouse, at the end of the day.

When something as unthinkable as this happens to your loved one, you need to attempt to find a way forward. It is a decision that can change the course of your life forever, and it does not make you a bad person; instead, it makes you human.

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