Divorce after Brain Injury

Life Changes after Brain Injury

By Marilyn Lash, MSW

Effects of brain injury on marriage

With nearly half of all marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, it’s been widely reported for many years that the rate of divorce is even higher among couples when a spouse has a brain injury. Divorce rates ranging from 48% to 78% are comm.only given. 

The stresses and challenges for couples are well known – ranging from the physical demands of caregiving to the emotional stresses of living with a spouse whose behavior and personality have changed.  In addition to the physical, cognitive, and emotional consequences of brain injury, many couples deal with the stresses of lower income due to the survivor’s unemployment and social isolation as friends withdraw. 

New research on marriage and divorce after brain injury

Research conducted in 2007 by the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System at Virginia Commonwealth University has looked more closely at this belief and has reported new and more positive findings.  Their study included 120 people with mild, moderate and severe brain injuries who were married at the time of their injury.  Their average age was 41 and it had been 3 to 8 years since their injury.  The study found that 3 out of 4 or 90 out of 120 survivors were still married.  This starkly contrasts with the common belief that divorce is widespread among couples after brain injury. 

Additional findings from the researchers are:

  • The overall rate of breakdown among couples was 25% (17% of survivors were divorced; 8% separated).
  • There was no difference in marital breakdown rates between male and female survivors.
  • The more serious the injury, the greater the likelihood of divorce.
  • Age mattered; survivors who were older when injured were much more likely to stay married.
  • Length of marriage mattered; those who had been married for more years before the injury were more likely to stay married after the injury.

The authors concluded that this study “…does not support the notion that divorce rates for persons with brain injury are higher than those for the general population.”


Kreutzer, J., Godwin, E., Marwitz, J. (2010). The Truth about Divorce after Brain Injury. TBI Challenge! Winter, 3.

For more information, see: 


Brain Injury It is a Journey

By Flora Hammond, M.D. and Tami Guerrier, B.S., Editors

This brain injury book for families explains consequences of traumatic brain injury and gives strategies for coping with changes in the survivor’s physical abilities, memory, attention, thinking and emotions.



Explaining Brain Injury, Blast Injury and PTSD to Children and Teens

By Marilyn Lash, M.S.W., Janelle Breese Biagioni and Tonya Hellard

When a parent is injured, sons and daughters often feel confused, scared, anxious and angry. This guide helps parents explain the physical, cognitive, behavioral, social and communicative changes that can follow a brain injury, blast injury or PTSD. Using examples from children of all ages, it helps them understand their emotional reactions to a parent’s injury or PTSD. Each chapter has an exercise for children and practical tips for children, parents and professionals.


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