Although the reasons why are unclear, the divorce rate for couples older than 50 has exploded over the last quarter-century.
Since the 1980s, the overall divorce rate has steadily declined. However, since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans older than 50 has doubled and more than doubled for those over 65. According to a report from Bowling Green State University, 1 of 4 people experiencing divorce in the U.S. is 50 or older and 1 in 10 is 65 or older.
One theory holds that couples are waiting until their children are grown before deciding to split. That way they are able to dodge all the pain and complications of child custody and child support issues. With the kids on their own, the divorce will hopefully be much simpler and less stressful.
That doesn’t always hold true, though, as “gray divorce” comes with its own host of issues to untangle.
Here are some issues you can expect to come up if you’re considering a divorce in your later years.
Asset division will be a pain.
The longer a couple stays together, the more intertwined their assets become.
It is basically impossible to determine who contributed what and when so judges often decide to split everything equally. This includes retirement accounts, inheritances, loans, etc.
It can be difficult to find adequate health insurance.
Many older divorcees are still too young for Medicare and too healthy for Medicaid. When insurance is lost as a result of divorce, it can be a huge task to find proper and affordable healthcare coverage.
Your living situation is about to get complicated.
Upon divorce, you or your spouse is going to have to leave the marital home. So where do you go?
You could move in with one of your kids, but they have their own lives and that is likely to get awkward quickly.
You could downsize and move into a smaller apartment, but that is a huge living adjustment and rent is often nearly as expensive as buying.
Buying another home might be the most ideal option, but it will likely be tough to convince a bank to grant you loan now that you are divorced and retired.
The kids are still an issue.
You might not have to worry about visitation schedules and child support, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t play a significant role in your “gray divorce.”
Regardless of their age, it is always tough for someone to hear that their parents are splitting. In a lot of ways, it is even more confusing and world-shaking when this happens after Mom and Dad have spent several (seemingly) happy decades together.
You’re eventually going to need help taking care of yourself.
Married couples typically rely on each other for caregiving as they age and encounter more health issues.
If you divorce and never remarry, you will either have to rely on family and friends to look after you or you might have to pay for caregiving. This can be a significant expense. According to a National Alliance for Caregiving/Evercare survey, the average out-of-pocket expense for caregivers is $5,531 per year.
The risk of major financial problems increases.
Older people are already often more financially vulnerable and even more so after taking on all the costs of going through a divorce.
Close to half (45%) of adults ages 65 and older had incomes below twice the poverty thresholds in 2013. And older divorcees are likely to be even worse off as older divorced Americans have only 20 percent as much wealth as older married couples.
None of this is to say older couples should stay together if their marriage is truly broken. Divorce is sometimes unavoidable, even for Baby Boomers.
However, as with every divorce, it is crucial to consider all the possible ramifications of divorce and seek appropriate legal guidance so that you are financially protected for life after divorce.