Divorcing in the Golden Years (surprise!)


This recent article was inspired by Danny Devito’s divorce after 30 years of marriage.  The article attempts to describe a number of reasons why couples may divorce after a long marriage.  One recent study found, “The divorce rate among older adults has more than doubled since 1980, and 1 in 4 persons who divorces today is over age 50.”  So it seems that divorce isn’t just for thirty-somethings with children.  The big-D may be for couples of all ages.

When people are living longer healthier lives, are able to have sexual relationships later in life (thanks Viagra®), and since women are more financially independent than in times past—to some extent divorce at a later stage in life makes more sense than it did in the past.

Divorce for seniors can lead to some very specific concerns. Division of assets and retirement funds at a relatively younger age (30s-50s) leaves divorcing couples with time to financial recover—but for most seniors who are divorcing, there is much more finality to this division and no work-life to recover from the financial repercussions.  In addition, assisted living facilities are not cheap.  Attempting to support both spouses in such facilities post-divorce may be too much for the community to bear.  And although children are no longer young, adult children acting as caregivers may have a difficult time coping with their parent’s divorce.

However, in some ways divorce for older couples is simpler.  Retired couples need not worry about the bread-winner quitting their job, child custody and child support are not an issue at all.  At the same time, it may be more important for the parties and their counsel to work together—towards a creative solution.  Due to the possibility that the payor spouse may die and no longer be able to pay spousal support, the parties may want to retain a life insurance policy.  However, due to the increased cost of life insurance as a senior, the parties may benefit from an alimony trust.  An alimony trust is when the payor spouse transfers investments or other assets that generate income into an alimony trust for the recipient spouse or beneficiary.  It may create more protection without the high cost of life insurance.

It seems as society becomes increasingly egalitarian—the pitfalls of life (including divorce) will affect different populations more equally than in the past.  Here are some key issues for couples divorcing as seniors to think about:

  • Long term care planning
  • Estate planning
  • Alternatives to traditional spousal support
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Social security benefits
  • Longer term marriage issues

If you would like a free consultation with regard to your family law issue, please give us a call at (805) 482-1170.

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