With longer lifetimes come higher aspirations for life – and for marital happiness — in the Golden Years. Among the over-60 set, the incidence of divorce has increased sharply—by 50 percent in just the past 10 years. Because many Baby Boomers want more from life than just the status quo, gray divorce, as it is called, now leads more couples to divorce court than ever before. Because these couples have had decades to build financial and emotional lives together—children, grandchildren, retirement funds, real estate assets and shared debt—divorce in the Golden Years can be far more complicated than divorce for younger people.
Key factors of concern for divorcing couples over age 60 include:
Financial: Many couples divorcing after 60 face shared expenses that depend primarily on one or the other’s current or past income. It can be particularly challenging to divide up assets equitably or calculate maintenance when one spouse was a stay-at-home parent for decades supporting the wealth creation of the bread-winning spouse.
Health: Along with the dependent income, many couples divorcing later in life share healthcare coverage and costs. This can present unique challenges that the divorcing couple must address, particularly the wife who was a stay-at-home mother. At the age of 60, it is still a few years before she eligible for Medicare on her own.
Pensions and Debt: Social Security is just one piece of the retirement puzzle. Spouses have a claim to each other’s pensions, and dividing those funds and debts can be challenging. A financial planner who specializes in divorce and the division of assets is essential when the divorcing couple have significant retirement assets, including pension plans, 401ks, Social Security.
Pain and Suffering: Divorce is nearly universally difficult and painful, but a divorce in the sunset years may bring out other emotions. These divorces can be traumatic to grown children. Divorcing couples over 60 often feel ashamed or embarrassed. Lifelong friendships can be at risk, because divorce makes the so-called “division of friendship” very difficult.
Divorce is different in the Golden Years. Living as a single person can also be more expensive. Impending retirements, medical needs and benefits, substantially larger assets, and emotional challenges bring all manner of difficulties. Financial planners, therapists, accountants, and a good attorney can be invaluable in navigating the additional complexities of starting anew in the sunset years.