Divorce is never easy, but when it happens in later in life the emotional and practical challenges can be especially difficult. When you’ve been married for many years, adapting to the many changes that divorce brings about can feel overwhelming.
Why Are Post-Retirement Divorce Rates Rising?
In recent years, divorce rates for couples over 50 have been steadily rising. This phenomenon, commonly referred to as “gray divorce,” is becoming increasingly common among older couples who are no longer in their prime working and parenting years.
Shifting Social Perspectives About Divorce
Divorce has long been stigmatized in society, and historically there were very few avenues – especially for women – to legally seek divorce. Even after laws shifted, social attitudes continued to discourage couples from leaving partnerships that were unfulfilling or unhappy. In recent years, however, attitudes about divorce have changed significantly and many people over 50 are finding that they feel more free to leave unhappy partnerships. With most people recognizing that divorce is no longer taboo, couples are experiencing less pressure from family and social circles to remain in unhappy marriages.
Changing Gender Roles
In past generations, it was generally assumed that a woman’s place was within the home and her role was centered around caretaking of children and managing household duties. If a couple divorced, a woman might be left without any means of supporting herself. Today, however, women are much more independent financially and socially which makes them less reliant on having an intact family unit for stability.
This increased independence has given many women the freedom and confidence needed to make decisions about divorce that may not have been possible before due to fear of financial insecurity or social stigma.
Furthermore, with greater access to education, employment opportunities, and personal development resources than ever before there are now more options available for single women who wish to pursue aspirations outside of marriage or motherhood. This freedom has allowed many older divorcees to choose against staying married out of obligation and instead seek new experiences as individuals in order create fulfilling lives for themselves after divorce.
Re-evaluating Expectations in Retirement
The rising rate of divorce after 50 can also be attributed to changes in life stage or expectations surrounding retirement. For many older couples who are nearing retirement age, divorce can be a way to have a fresh start as they enter this new phase of their lives.
This time of life is often marked by big changes such as empty nest syndrome, retirement from work, health concerns, and more. These transitions can be difficult for couples to navigate together, especially if they do not share the same vision for what retirement should look like.
For example, one spouse may want to downsize and travel while the other wants to stay put and focus on hobbies, volunteering, or caring for their grandchildren. Without children at home for which to care and manage, some couples feel that divorce is their best option for pursuing independent dreams now that they have more freedom and flexibility than ever before.
Financial Challenges of Post-Retirement Divorce
For those facing a gray divorce, it is important to take stock of your financial situation and make sure that you are adequately protected during this transition. When divorce happens after retirement age, the financial challenges can be significant. Retired couples tend to have more complex assets, and property division in these divorces can be especially challenging.
The financial challenges of post-retirement divorce can also include:
- Division of retirement savings: When it comes to divorce, any jointly held retirement savings (like 401Ks and IRAs) must be divided. This can be especially challenging if one spouse saved significantly more than the other.
- Health insurance coverage: After divorce, health insurance coverage may also be affected. If you and your spouse share employer-provided health insurance, it can be challenging to figure out new health care coverage options.
- Housing expenses: Divorce often results in at least one spouse needing to find new housing as well as cover associated costs such as rent or mortgage payments and utilities that used to be shared by both partners.
- Alimony payments: Depending on factors such as the length of the marriage and each couple’s earning potential, post-retirement divorce is likely to involve alimony payments.
- Lifestyle changes: It can be difficult for both parties to adjust to a new lifestyle, especially when one party has been traditionally responsible for bringing in most of the income.
Because of these issues, negotiating a divorce settlement in these cases can be especially fraught. It’s wise to seek legal advice from an experienced divorce attorney who specializes in post-retirement divorce issues.
Emotional Challenges of Divorce After 50
Divorce after the age of 50 can bring with it a host of difficult emotions such as guilt, fear, anger, grief, and loneliness. After many years of marriage, being single again can feel incredibly daunting and isolating. Loneliness is a very real emotion that divorcees must confront and learn to cope with in order to move forward.
Additionally, divorce can bring up feelings of regret or guilt. Divorcees may feel remorse for not trying to make their marriage work or guilty for leaving their partner behind. These complex emotions can be difficult to manage but learning how to accept them is a key step on the path towards healing from divorce.
Finally, divorced individuals over 50 may also face transitions into single living which include both practical tasks (like learning how to handle finances on one income) as well as emotional obstacles (like coming to terms with starting over). While these changes may be overwhelming at first, eventually you may find it’s an opportunity for personal growth and fulfillment.
Call Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C. for Help with Your Gray Divorce
At Jason M. Barbara & Associates, P.C., we understand how challenging it can be to go through a divorce after retirement. Our experienced divorce attorneys are dedicated to providing compassionate and supportive legal guidance to our clients, helping ensure that their rights and interests are protected through every step of the process so that they can move forward with their lives.
If you are facing a divorce, contact us online or call us at (516) 406-8381 to schedule a consultation.