Divorce rates for those 50 and over have been steadily increasing over the last 20 years. There are many reasons for this. Spouses may have slowly grown apart and there is no longer the distraction of children, so it is more noticeable. Or they may have become complacent in their relationship. Of course, financial issues are often a problem in many marriages but as retirement approaches, there may be added stress. Whatever the motivation for considering divorce, it is a big decision with significant repercussions. Before moving forward, it is helpful to think about some of these issues:
- Can you save your marriage? A good therapist can help you determine whether you are ready to divorce and/or work with you and your spouse to resolve your conflicts. He or she can assist both of you in dealing with negative emotions and provide practical tips to facilitate communication inside and outside of therapy sessions.
- What do you know about your finances? In many marriages, one spouse (often the husband) is the primary person handling the family finances, leaving the other less knowledgeable of his or her financial situation. This is particularly true with older couples. If you are not the one handling the money, it is important to begin educating yourself as soon as possible regardless of whether you divorce. If you do move forward, finances are often a battleground in divorce and it is important to mitigate any surprises. Legal and financial professionals can assist you during the divorce by helping you negotiate a fair settlement and explain how it will impact your life going forward particularly in retirement.
- Is there an alternative to divorce that may help address some of your problems? If you are not ready for divorce, you may want to consider executing a post-nuptial agreement. This is particularly useful if your disputes involve finances. Separation may also be an option. You and your spouse can separate and live independent lives to help you decide whether you really want a divorce. The benefit of legal separation is that you can still maintain certain legal and financial benefits of marriage, such as health insurance and tax advantages, which is important when you are older and one spouse is unemployed or has been out of the workforce for many years. However, you need to talk with an attorney about negotiating and drafting a separation agreement.
- Can you divorce amicably? There is a significant difference between a litigated divorce and one that is settled through mediation or a collaborative process. If you can find a way to resolve your disputes through negotiation and compromise, it will save you substantial time, money and stress. That doesn’t mean giving in on important issues or settling at all costs. The best path forward is to get good legal advice and bring in neutral financial and mental health experts to help facilitate communication and find common ground with your spouse.
Deciding to divorce is a significant decision, but so is staying married when disputes cannot be resolved. If you are ready to divorce or want to discuss a post-nup or separation, contact me for a consultation.