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New York State Bar Journal

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The largest number of people in the United States infected with the AIDS virus live in New York State. Some number of these New Yorkers are married, parents and involved in a disintegrating relationship with their spouse. Accordingly, AIDS related problems will be a centerpiece of their divorces. Indeed, cases involving AIDS are beginning to be reported in the state's trial courts.

Our thesis is that the Bar and Bench should aim, as far as possible, to treat an AIDS-related divorce identically to any other divorce involving a spouse with a progressive, inevitably fatal disease. This goal serves the important policies of confidentiality and non-discrimination that are at the core of public health strategy to contain the spread of the AIDS virus. It also promotes vitally needed cooperation between spouses in preparing the family unit for the simultaneous tragedies of death and divorce.

First, this article briefly outlines basic medical facts about AIDS. We then suggest the approach courts and lawyers should take in cases involving AIDS-related divorce issues including grounds, economics, child custody and involuntary blood tests. Finally, we make broader recommendations for how divorce counsel and courts can help families undergoing an AIDS-related divorce cope with their devastating problems.