LEAD: "When a marriage breaks up because a man brings home AIDS, all the factors are at play," said Peter Bronstein, a New York matrimonial lawyer. He gave the following account of a case in which he represents the wife:
"When a marriage breaks up because a man brings home AIDS, all the factors are at play," said Peter Bronstein, a New York matrimonial lawyer. He gave the following account of a case in which he represents the wife:
The couple separated 18 months ago when the husband's illness became known. The wife is allowing him to visit their child, provided a nanny is present. Their assets include an expensive house in Westchester County, a modest stock portfolio and a life-insurance policy for the husband.
The husband, no longer well enough to work, is living on disability payments and limited resources. He has asked to use the stock portfolio to pay his medical bills. The wife has said he must first agree to support payments for her and the child. The husband has threatened to stop paying the life-insurance premiums.
'Hang on and Wait'
Neither party is seeking a divorce. The husband would receive his share of the couple's joint assets upon divorce, but he has no grounds for a suit. The wife has grounds - "cruel and unusual treatment" or perhaps adultery - but she believes it is in her financial interest to remain married.
"When a house is the parties' most valuable asset, the wife of a man with AIDS might be inclined to hang on and wait until her husband dies and then receive 100 percent of the house," Mr. Bronstein said. "If she divorces him under equitable distribution of assets and a house is the main asset, then it may be divided 50-50."
If the couple can agree on child support and a way to pay the husband's medical bills, the case might be resolved.
If not, Mr. Bronstein said, the wife will go to court for a support order and an injuction preventing the husband from canceling the insurance.
"She could wind up with the insurance and 100 percent of the house," he said.