older people and divorce

For years, married couples have been known to stay together for the “sake of the children.” When the children are grown and moved away, more older people are divorcing than ever before. There are several reasons for this:

  • The couple may have problems with being empty nesters. Now that the kids are out of the house, one or both will finally say, “I don’t want to be married any longer and I just want to try something new.”
  • One or both parties may have built up resentments about their spouse. There may be years of hurt feelings and one party may have a list of grievances against the other. 
  • It may be a subsequent marriage that the adult children disapprove of, so they encourage their parent to split with the new partner. Finally, the elderly parents give in to the pressure and agree to split.
  • The older couple may need medical services that are not available to them based on their shared income. They legally divorce in order to access the financial benefits but stay married in their own minds and continue living together.
  • The working spouse retires but has no plans for how to handle retirement. They have no hobbies or planned activities, so they are home and “underfoot” every day. The spouse who is having to adjust to the new normal decides they’ve had enough, so they file for divorce.

A collaborative divorce is particularly helpful for older people who are getting a divorce. The wage earner has likely retired and there is a finite pool of financial resources for them to draw upon. They may have nothing other than Social Security, which is not divisible in divorce. If the couple has limited funds coming in from their investments, a collaborative divorce allows us to be sure that both spouses end up with enough resources to be able to survive.

Additionally, through a collaborative divorce process, we can diffuse some of the hurt feelings and with the help of the mental health professional who is a vital team member, allow the angry partner to divorce amicably and move on with their life.

Another benefit of the collaborative divorce process for older people is that we can maintain their privacy. Baby boomers and earlier generations are often extremely protective of what information they want divulged to the public. With collaborative divorce, we can keep their personal and financial information within the confines of the collaborative process, so they don’t have to air their dirty laundry in the courtroom or see it published on the court website for anyone to read. 

We used to think that people that stayed married for 25 of 30 years would stay together for the rest of their lives.  With people living longer than ever before, the grey divorce (50+) has become much more common. 

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