It may come as a surprise to learn that a segment of the population is untying the knot more frequently than ever before: seniors.
Why Senior Divorce is on the Rise
A variety of key factors may explain why more seniors are getting divorced. Here are some possible causes:
Lifespan. With a lifespan average into the late 70s, seniors are living longer than ever before. And thanks to all-around healthier living, quality of life is on the increase, too. This means that today’s healthy and vibrant seniors are in a position to be in unhappy marriages that could possibly last another 20 (or more) years — a duration that their golden year predecessors didn’t have to contemplate.
Lifestyle changes. Instead of fading quietly into retirement, some seniors are looking for new growth in their lives, such as traveling, re-entering the workforce, starting a new business or living somewhere outside of the county, and so on. As such, they could view divorce as a necessary step that enables them to explore these lifestyle changes if their spouses do not have the same desires.
No children’s issues. For seniors, the children have (presumably) left the nest, and there are no custody or support matters to grapple with. And while divorce is typically a serious and stressful experience, many seniors are discovering that divorce can be a simpler process due to the lack of contentious children’s issues.
Social acceptance. Many seniors who stayed together because divorce wasn’t socially acceptable can now divorce without feeling as though they’ll scandalize their family. They may even get some encouragement from their children.
Senior Divorce Issues
Here are some of the major considerations for divorce-bound seniors and their supporters. They highlight the importance of getting professional help from financial advisors and family lawyers:
Standard of living. Many seniors are on fixed income, and it’s harder for them to recover from financial shocks. As such, divorcing seniors need to know what standard of life they can expect after divorce; and, if necessary, make financial adjustments to minimize their risks.
Asset and debt valuation/allocation. Many senior couples are either living mortgage-free in the family home, or their home equity has dramatically increased from when it was purchased. And of course, there could be retirement and life insurance plans. All of these assets need to be evaluated and allocated, and this can be complex; especially during fluctuating stock market conditions. At the same time, some couples may have joint debts, such as car loans, lines of credit, and so on. These, too, need to be sorted out.
Estate planning. Many husbands and wives name their spouse as the beneficiary of their estate — but after divorce, this (almost certainly) needs to change. Estate planning can also become more complicated if a spouse remarries. An experienced estate planner can help untangle these issues before they become a major problem for both surviving ex-spouses, and any children or other beneficiaries.
Family issues. Even the most amicable divorce scenario can give rise to family issue such as “who shows up to the hospital during a birth,” and so on. Divorce professionals such as mediators, can foster positive discussions and draft an agreement that is acceptable to both spouses.
Future health issues. Most spouses expect to rely on their husband or wife to help them make it through inevitable mental and physical health challenges as they age, or immediately after the separation, especially for the spouse who does not want the divorce. It would be wise to look into or arrange for potential caretakers by having a proactive discussion and plan with the children.
Gazing into the Future…
With seniors being — by far — the fasting growing demographic group by age, senior divorce may emerge as the dominant divorce issue in the 21st century.
As always, time will tell.
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