Two important conversations before moving forward with gray divorce
The rate of individuals getting a divorce after the age of 50 continues to rise throughout the United States. This phenomenon, known as gray divorce, has led to a divorce rate that has more than doubled within this age group from rates in the 1990s. Think it slows down after the age of 50? That would be incorrect. Data also shows that for those over the age of 65 the divorce rate has tripled.
These numbers come from reputable sources, including the Census Bureau and the Pew Research Center. Although it may provide some comfort for those who find themselves in this situation to know that they are not alone if going through a later in life divorce, it is still a difficult time. The process is never easy whether waiting for the children to grow and move on and anticipating the split for years or feeling ambushed by a partner who has decided to move forward with divorce after decades together. Although never easy, there are steps that can help you feel more in control. One of the most important is to have these two conversations.
#1: Assets and financial expectations
First, the good news: you likely do not have to worry about child custody or support arrangements. Those who divorce after the age of 50 are more likely to have adult children. This can lead to its own set of problems, discussed in the next section. But older adults do not need to worry about the task of actually raising their adult children after a divorce. This can be a big plus.
The not so good news: splitting assets takes on new meaning. You and your partner likely spent decades building retirement accounts, diversifying your stock portfolio, and accumulating real estate with the plan to retire together. Now those assets need to serve two individuals instead of one couple. Achieving this goal will take careful planning. You can help to better ensure it goes while by putting together an inventory of assets and debts to help guide the conversation
#2: Remember the children
Even adult children can have a difficult time coping when their parents’ divorce. Grieving the separation of their parents is natural. Psychology experts generally recommend maintaining a parent/child relationship and avoiding the temptation to confide in a child as one would a friend.
Adult children can also mean important life events, like college graduation, marriage, and grandchildren. You and your ex will need to come up with a plan for how to handle sharing the life events that will come in the future.
Other important conversations can include:
- Taxes. Although many transfers during divorce are not taxed, some are. Review the role taxes can play, both state and federal, before finalizing the divorce.
- Insurance. How will health insurance work? Also discuss how to handle any long-term care insurance or other plans.
- Estate plan. Do you want to make sure that children receive an inheritance in the event one parent remarries? Do you want to make sure your ex does not get the assets in the event of your death? Review and update your estate plan after divorce to better ensure it meets your needs.
- Mental health. Take a moment to evaluate your mental health. This is a huge life change at any stage, but those who divorce later in life may separate from someone they spent decades of their lives with — this may warrant the need to talk to a counselor to help navigate the emotional impact of the divorce.
It is also important to note that there are many different options when it comes to the meat of the divorce process. Courtroom litigation is an option, but mediation and arbitration can provide more control in the final resolution. An attorney experienced in family law matters can review your situation and discuss which options may be best for your case.