Though some age groups are experiencing a decrease in divorce rates, divorce later in life is rising. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate for adults over 50 has approximately doubled since the 90s. Meanwhile, the rate of divorce among adults 65 and older has nearly tripled. While the rate of divorce in these age groups is undeniably going up, there are some unique concerns that people who are divorcing over 50 should be aware of.
Below we take a look at how divorce over 50 can be different and what to expect if you are considering divorcing your spouse.
Divorce can be financially difficult for many couples, regardless of age. However, if you are divorcing later in life, these difficulties are somewhat different from those divorcing in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. According to the Pew Research Center study earlier mentioned, those who divorce later in life tend to be less financially secure than their married or widowed peers.
Couples who are over 50, and especially those who are over 65, are more likely to be retired already and on a fixed income. Even if not retired, unemployment can also be a major issue for adults over 50. You will not only have to pay for the divorce itself (legal and court fees), but you will also see your household income dramatically reduced. Furthermore, living expenses for someone who is single and living alone are higher than those for a couple living together. All of this can create significant financial stress post-divorce, especially if you are currently unemployed, underemployed, or retired.
If you are considering divorcing later in life, you should speak with a financial advisor and have a plan for how you will handle the new increase in living expenses, as well as the cost of the divorce itself.
Division of Retirement Benefits
Another financial issue that those divorcing later in life will have to consider is how their retirement benefits (such as pensions and 401k accounts) will be divided. Because California is a community property state, retirement benefits are typically divided equitably between the divorcing parties. This may mean that you have significantly less money for your retirement than you planned for and expected.
To learn about protecting your retirement during a divorce, review our recent blog post here.
Health Insurance Concerns
For most people, their health insurance is tied to their job or their spouse's job. When someone retires, they and their spouse may retain health insurance benefits from their employer as part of their retirement. When a couple divorces, the person who is not employed loses access to their partner's health insurance benefits. This can be a serious problem for those who are older and who may have more healthcare needs, especially if you are not yet 65 and therefore do not have access to Medicare.
Even with access to Medicare, you may have relied on your spouse's employer-provided health insurance to supplement Medicare. If you plan to divorce after 50, you should be aware of the ways your health insurance will be affected and have a plan for securing your own health insurance post-divorce.
Family & Lifestyle Changes
Not only will your finances drastically change, but many people divorcing over 50 find that their day-to-day lifestyle also changes. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and in many cases, this is for the best. However, it is something to be mindful of. The decision to divorce after a long marriage has far-reaching consequences. In addition to the immediate difficulties of ending your marriage, you may also experience grief and anxiety over the other relationships in your life that will change.
Many people divorcing later in life have been married for 20-30 years or more. As a result, their social circles may be fully intertwined, and they are more likely to have deep relationships with each other's extended family. After a divorce, that social circle will probably look somewhat different, and you may be faced with making new friends. Similarly, you may now be excluded from family gatherings and holidays that you once participated in regularly.
It is also not uncommon for adult children to be shaken by the news of their parents' divorce. They may even feel blindsided by the divorce if they have been living away from home for an extended period of time and were unaware that you and your ex-spouse were considering separating. This may mean that your relationship with your children goes through a rough period as they adjust to their parents being apart.
You may also be facing the prospect of re-entering the workforce after an extended time away. While this can be a good opportunity for independence and developing a new circle of friends and colleagues, it can also be anxiety-inducing and daunting. Being mentally prepared for this dramatic shift in your lifestyle can help make the transition easier and less shocking.
Take Care of Your Mental & Emotional Health
Going through a divorce takes a toll on everyone involved. Therefore, it is important that you prioritize your mental and emotional health during this process. If you are struggling or feel like you need help, do not be afraid to reach out to a therapist or counselor for support. Many people report going through a range of emotions during the divorce process, including anger and grief. Divorce is not easy to process, and you deserve to be supported.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
It is also important that you work with an experienced lawyer throughout the divorce process to ensure that your best interests are protected. Even if you and your former partner believe you are on the same page, it is crucial that you have legal representation. Your lawyer can represent you in negotiations with your former partner, help you file all necessary documents with the court, and should your case go before a judge, they can represent you in court. They can also help with some of the more complicated aspects of a divorce, including asset and debt division and negotiating a spousal support agreement.
If you are over 50 and considering divorcing your spouse, schedule a consultation with our law firm. We are here to help you.