Divorce over 50
Recently I have had several couples well over their fifties coming to my office for divorce mediation. Couples in their seventies with grandchildren and couples who never had children, they are choosing new paths to follow for their remaining years. According to a 2013 a public research study at Bowling Green University in Ohio, the divorce rate among adults ages 50 and older doubled between 1980 and 2010. Now, one in four Americans getting divorced is 50 or older. Those in the Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, were the first to divorce and remarry while they were young, and may divorce again as they age.
Divorce for this group presents unique challenges: due to age and their years (or not) remaining in the workforce, a careful discussion and planning regarding their financial situation, to make sure that both spouses know and understand the affect of divorce on their economic well-being, is absolutely essential. Often a mediator with financial divorce certification should be involved to calculate and explain financial realities before the couple considers divorce. An alternative to divorce could involve a discussion of a legal financial separation instead of divorce, especially if there has been financial mishandling or abuse by one spouse or a chronic behavioral addiction which could expose the family to lawsuit and financial drainage. A legal financial separation would separate households and finances but the couple could remain under the same roof. In New York State couples can remain separated in perpetuity.
For younger couples it could be a cooling off, or, as I like to tell my clients, it is a reflection time for each partner to see what he or she has done in the relationship to bring them to my office for a divorce. That is a discussion for another article by itself.
Returning to the over fifty age group, another benefit of legal separation is that both parties can remain under the family Health insurance if they are not already on Medicaid or Medicare individually. For example, if there is a preexisting condition the effected party may not be able to secure adequate coverage. I recently legally separated a lovely couple for that very reason. The husband has cancer and has many medical expenses which Medicare may not fully cover. Through the younger Wife’s good health insurance, he is able to have all of his medical needs and treatment covered. The Wife was in a relationship with another but could not marry again because of her commitment to her husband’s guarantee of quality and comprehensive health care. I continue to see in my mediated separation or divorces, kindness and much decency in the way couples treat one another even at times of division.
In marriages of long duration, where one spouse handles finances and is more comfortable with numbers, the other spouse may feel vulnerable, uneasy and left out, even if that was not evident during the marriage. I had a very well-to-do couple where the husband in late seventies thought that because he was retired and not earning income in what he considered the “traditional” sense, there was no money to divide. That very year which the wife was divorcing the husband, he was asked by two of his employers to start withdrawing from his retirement funds or risk losing his money. The Wife on the other hand was the spouse in charge of billing and all financial investments. She knew exactly where they stood financially. She also, understood his resistance to divide any portfolio simply because he did not understood numbers.
Another source of significant value for couples already retired is their income from retirement and pensions. Many couples over fifty with whom I have collaborated are already at near retirement age. Sometimes one spouse is much younger and also the lower income spouse perhaps entitled to spousal support. The equitable division of the retirement will negatively effect the income of the retired spouse. In all my mediation, I put on the table the doctrine of fairness, to help couples ask themselves and then to make decisions. Mediating since 2001, I use experience, extensive mediation training, and my credentials as a divorce financial analyst and a mediation attorney to dissolve marriages. I am honored to hear your divorce story and to be selected as your mediator.