The divorce rate for older adults is increasing, according to sociological studies as reported in the New York Times , and as well known to practicing divorce attorneys who witness the increase as part of everyday practice.. The divorce rate among people over 50 has doubled since 1990. The reasons for the increase in the divorce rate of long-married, older couples is varied. These reasons include increased longevity, increased self-awareness and independence of women, starting over before it’s “too late,” greater acceptance of divorce, the “Viagra” effect, the higher acceptance of divorce among baby boomers, greater lifestyle options and more. If a person is 65 years old and healthy, he/she can expect to live another 20 to 30 years in pretty good shape. Why stay in a bad relationship, when there is potentially a more positive, fun, intimate and adventurous relationship waiting on the other side of divorce? “A lot of marriages died a long time ago, but because of the shame involved, people often stuck together for the children. Now the children are grown, Viagra is another reason–men are able to satisfy younger women, and people are living longer and they can get out and still have a life,” according to Robert D. Gould, a divorced New York lawyer, who handles matrimonial cases. Life is short and an “is this all there is?” mentality is giving women and men the impetus to make the tough decision to file for divorce.
Divorce at any age is difficult, but divorce for those over 50 presents its own hurdles and problems. Many women who were stay-at-home moms have lower Social Security benefits, because Social Security is based in part on work history. Sometimes adult children and friends place guilt and anger on the parent who wants a divorce. Finances and budgets are often dependent on pension and retirement income, rather than earnings and earning capacity. Health may be deteriorating. Physical limitations may make living alone more difficult. Divorce can and does contribute to economic hardship and may put a strain on health. Divorce may increase the need for support from the government and other sources.
In some instances, divorce may be the correct financial answer, in view of the financial and medical circumstances of the married couple. For example, a party may be better able to qualify for Medicaid and other tax-funded programs as a divorced versus a married person. The parties may still live together, but decide to get divorced in order to obtain economic benefits available to a party individually, but not as part of a married couple. As a single person, one partner may be shielded from the other party’s debts in the event of serious illness or other catastrophic expenses. With today’s domestic partnership laws, divorce may be a financial tool in some circumstances. People may simply decide to live together as another alternative. More on this issue will be addressed in next week’s blog.
The bottom line regarding divorce in a long-term marriage is the need to select a divorce attorney knowledgeable of the special requirements of long-term marriages ending in divorce. The divorce attorney representing older couples needs to address Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, long-term care, nursing home care, retirement and pension benefits, maintenance, asset retention and division, caregiver requirements, estate planning, life insurance, beneficiary designation, special needs trusts, children and grandchild relationships, guardianships, health and financial powers of attorney, etc. For a free evaluation call Wisconsin Divorce Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel at 1-800-805-1976 or Wisconsin Elder Law Attorney Lisa M. Vanden Heuvel at 262-250-1976.