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The Challenges of an Elder Divorce

Divorce is tough, but it can be even tougher when people are older. The challenges of divorce are different and often more complicated for couples over 50 than they are for younger couples. Still, elder divorce is on the rise.

Elder Divorce Trends

Based on 2015 data from the US Census Bureau, 10 out of 1000 couples aged 50 and older had divorced. Things were different in 1990 when only 5 out of 1000 couples over 50 were divorced. Additionally, approximately 48% of adults who had divorced in 2015 had been in their second or third marriage. The rise in grey divorce is linked to aging Baby Boomers who reportedly had more marital instability earlier in life. 34% of elder divorce cases included couples who had been going steady for more than 30 years.

Unique Concerns in Late-Life Divorce

Unlike young divorces, elder divorce has unique concerns. Causes of elder divorce may include abuse and waned intimacy. Complications may include the division of retirement and marital estates. Consequences may consist of social rejection and loneliness, poverty, and health issues.

Psychological Challenges

When a spouse's mental abilities start to falter, he or she may become negligent and abusive in the relationship. In fact, reduced intimacy and psychological abuse are common reasons people over 40 give for divorcing. Elder abuse is a leading cause of grey divorce according to a survey by AARP. While young divorcees may bounce back quickly and find new love after a divorce, it may take longer for elderly people.

Financial Hardship

Financial challenges exist when elderly couples get divorced. When dividing assets, including real estate and retirement, the following issues may arise:

  • Who gets to keep the home, and who pays the mortgage?
  • What tax benefits exist for the real estate property?
  • How should the 401-k plan be divided?
  • Can divorcing spouses get a hardship withdrawal?

An elder divorce attorney can help couples identify the mistakes to avoid when dividing marital property. For example, an incomprehensive inventory on assets can heap economic burdens on one person in the divorce.

Limited Support

Societal and religious acceptance of elder divorce is still low. That exposes divorcees to mental pressure due to the social stigma. Legal separation may be the solution to this and other challenges in elder divorce.

When couples legally separate, they generally live apart but maintain the marriage title. They can usually enjoy full spousal support and the other financial benefits of marriage, including inheritance eligibility when the other spouse dies.