There is a misconception that divorce is for the young. Once a couple survives the initial hurdles of marriage and child raising, then gets past the mid-life crises, it seems like their relationship should be in the clear.
In reality, older couples are divorcing more than ever before. Overall, the divorce rate in the United States has been in steady decline since the 1980s. According to a Pew Research Center report, between 1990 and 2015 the divorce rate among adults age 50 and older roughly doubled while it nearly tripled for adults older than 65.
There are likely numerous factors contributing to this rise.
For one, Americans are simply living longer and healthier lives. According to recent research from Harvard University, between 1992 and 2008, the life expectancy for those aged 65 increased from 17.5 years to 18.8. More than 10 of those years were disability free. When you’re in your 60s and you can expect to have 20 healthy years ahead of you, the thought of staying in a stale marriage no longer sounds as appealing.
Baby Boomers were also the first generation to see a large increase in the number of women in the workforce. More spouses are finding themselves financially independent as they head into their retirement years so they feel less pressure to stay together for financial reasons.
Older adults who have remarried are also at much greater risk of divorcing. Nearly half of divorces among those 50 and older involve remarriages.
Whatever the reasons for these older breakups, there are unique complications involved in “gray divorce.”
Separating the marital estate is a big point of contention during just about any divorce. The longer a couple is married, the more intertwined their assets are. You’ll need to sort through investment accounts, loans, mortgages, retirement accounts, inheritances, etc.
If a couple has been married for a long time, it can be nearly impossible to determine who contributed what and when, so many judges are likely to just divide everything up equally.
A lot of older divorcing couples fall into a bracket in which they are too young for Medicare and too healthy for Medicaid. If you are on your spouse’s insurance and you divorce, there can be a long gap before you are eligible for Medicare at 65. And finding affordable coverage at an age when health risks are on the rise is not easy.
You may qualify for continued coverage under your ex’s group plan for up to three years under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. However, you or your ex-spouse will be required to cover the cost of premiums.
It is common for one spouse to handle paying the bills and budgeting for the household. If that wasn’t you then you need to make sure you know how to budget properly and handle all your finances.
You’re now giving up half of your retirement nest egg and any other income your wife provided.
Educate yourself on budgeting basics by looking into a personal finance class at a local community college. You’ll also want to visit the bank to set up a new checking account.
Make sure you know how much money you have coming in each month and exactly where that money is going so you understand what you can and can’t afford.
If you’re over 50, you probably haven’t had to find a bachelor pad in years, but that’s probably the situation you’re faced with now.
One of you is going to be forced out of the marital home. Even if you’re the one staying in the house, you might find that you can’t afford it and need to sell.
Buying another home could be tough since you will have to convince a bank to grant you a loan even though you are divorced and possibly retired.
You can try to find a smaller apartment, but that is a big living adjustment and rents aren’t cheap either.
Moving in with your kids might be a possibility, but you need to respect their space as much as possible.
A lot of older couples wait to divorce because they were sticking it out for the kids’ sake. You might think since they are grown and you don’t have custody and child support issues to sort through that they won’t be an issue.
But explaining your divorce to your adult children is an issue in and of itself. As adults, the kids are more likely to get caught in the crosshairs of your breakup. Even though they are grown, that dilemma brings its own complications and emotional turmoil.