Over the past couple of decades, divorce rates among people over 50 years old have doubled in the US. When individuals who are middle-aged or older get divorced, sometimes it’s a step they planned for years; they’ve waited, for instance, for their children to leave the house first. In other cases, they never anticipated that their marriages would end and that they’d need to make major adjustments to their lives at a point when they thought they’d have more stability. In any case, open attitudes about divorce, and frequent coverage in the media have created a more permissive environment for divorce. Ages ago people expected to go to their grave within the same marriage. Now it is more acceptable to start a new life at any age.
A ‘gray divorce,’ such as it’s sometimes called, poses its own unique challenges. One major issue that comes up is how to divide the assets that the couple has built up together over the years. Whereas younger people who get divorced sometimes don’t even own a home or have much in the way of savings, it’s more typical for an older and established couple to have their own home, more substantial savings and a wider variety of accounts, and funds set aside for retirement and medical expenses. What are the criteria for an equitable split of assets? Which assets are less desirable? These questions will need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis by expert lawyers, to be sure that both parties are receiving fair treatment. Another issue is directly related to the age of the divorcing couple; they do not have time to correct for major mistakes in a division of assets.
Other issues involve changing the will and making other alterations to estate planning. For instance, one spouse may have designated the other to make important life-or-death medical decisions for them in the event that they’re mentally incapacitated; with the divorce, they may want to give someone else these powers, such as an adult child. Beneficiaries listed in a will could also change, and you’d need to revise your estate planning in light of the assets you’re left with after the divorce.
Other adjustments may be social. You may feel cut adrift from the circle of friends that you shared with your spouse. If you need to move to a new home, you may feel as if your life is starting over again. And if you’re unused to living alone, it may take you time to adjust to doing various things by yourself. One important consideration to make is that if you have little experience working on personal finances, and tended to leave such matters to your spouse, you’ll need to learn quickly to manage them so that you don’t get taken advantage of.
When undergoing a divorce in the later years of your life, be sure to have a good attorney on your side, so that your best interests will be met. You don’t want to harm yourself, and ruin your chances of stability in the golden years of your life, by agreeing to a divorce settlement that’s unfavorable to you.