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Beware the unforeseen issues of gray divorce

Discussions about gray divorce – getting divorced past the age of 50 – often focus on dividing retirement assets and other financial matters.

There are numerous consequences associated with gray divorce: not just employment and economics, but social, emotional and health ramifications. It is important to prepare yourself for all of the changes that may occur.

Gray divorce presents a different set of challenges

The divorce rate has doubled among couples 50 and over, and tripled among retirees 65 and over. Divorce doesn’t carry the stigma it did when they were growing up, and people are living longer. The gray divorce phenomenon does give rise to unique issues that may not apply to younger couples who split up:

  • Rethinking retirement – Two spouses with decent salaries or a sizeable nest egg may be able to comfortably retire at a target age. Once they divorce, their individual incomes don’t go as far. Divorcing in your 50s or 60s may mean postponing retirement or coming out of retirement to work at least part-time.
  • Family estrangement – There is no child custody fight, but relationships with children and grandchildren may be altered. Men especially find themselves estranged from their adult children once they divorce. A grandma or grandpa who is divorced may find they are no longer invited to family events or allowed to spend time with their grandkids.
  • Health care – When you divorce, you can’t stay on your spouse’s health insurance plan. At a time when you may experience more frequent or more serious health issues, you may need to purchase health insurance. A policy for a person in their 50s, 60s or 70s does not come cheaply.
  • Loneliness and depression – Obviously it is detrimental to stay in a marriage that is acrimonious or abusive. But divorce for older couples can be very much like being widowed. Many divorced seniors find themselves isolated and listless, or develop anxiety or depression. Start building that support network before you divorce, and don’t be shy about getting help from a counselor or a doctor.

Seniors who reach age 65 can expect to live another 20 years or so. The average life expectancy for men is 84 years and for women 87. If you are considering a divorce after decades of marriage (or facing a second divorce), you want to go in with eyes wide open. There is much more to consider that splitting the 401(k) and who gets the house.



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