Although divorce in general has had a slight decline over the last 5 years, divorce in the over 50 crowd is rapidly on the upswing for a variety of reasons. Some of these are emotional, personal, the result of years of not being happy and choosing to end your life without a partner. For some, it is a financial transaction associated with an unwillingness to become entangled in care or Medicaid issues. For others, it is a response to declining mental acuity and dementia which can sometimes cause people to behave cruelly or irrationally. Whatever the reason, these divorces can be heartbreaking and difficult for everyone involved. Here are a few steps if you are considering divorcing in your elder years.
- Have a Realistic Financial Plan. If both parties are retired, take a good look at finances. It’s probably fixed…you have a set amount of pension, Social Security and retirement assets from which to draw. If this is divided in half (and in some cases Social Security equalization doesn’t happen, or if the marriage is shorter one spouse may not be entitled to a full equal share of a pension asset), will both parties be able to financially survive divorce? If you’re considering it, have a plan on how you will live on the funds you can reasonably expect to draw from the assets of the marriage.
- Don’t Involve Adult Children. Often, adult children can complicate and add expense to a grey divorce because they have their own agenda: a favorite parent, a concern about preserving assets for their own inheritance, a buy in to drama…all of these potential agendas can spell big expense and a lot more hardship in a divorce. Respectfully ask your adult children to stay out of the divorce, and allow the two of you and your attorneys and any professionals involved to get you through it.
- Talk to a Medicaid Attorney. We will often refer our clients out to a Medicaid attorney prior to initiating a divorce so they can know clearly what the impact will be on any current or future needs they have.
- Be Aware of Capacity Issues. If one of the parties has dementia, it may not mean that the divorce can’t go through. Legal capacity is a low bar, but if the individual cannot meet it or there are concerns, the court can appoint a Guardian Ad Litem to help the process. This can add expense and time, but just know that it may be necessary in some cases.
- Consider Alternatives. Speak to your attorney about the range of possible ways you can meet your goals that may or may not include divorce. A separation with limited asset division, guardianship over a spouse with dementia that won’t accept treatment, and a host of other individual plans can be developed with a qualified attorney who has elder law as well as family law experience.
If you are considering grey divorce, please call for a free consultation at 856-227-7888. Remember, knowledge and gathering information doesn’t mean you have to go through with it…but know your options.