Divorce is difficult for anyone, but for those who experience a later-in-life end to their marriage, the process is unique.
There are many common challenges older divorcing individuals face. Several of them involve everyone’s financial security, especially if one party was not the breadwinner or an income earner.
Below are five of the most common challenges individuals may have to manage during a grey divorce.
1. Asset division
Property earned before a marriage is typically untouched, but anything acquired during the marriage is marital property. Older couples, especially those who have been together for a long time, may have a more difficult time untangling what belongs to whom.
2. Retirement and Social Security
Splitting the wealth in a grey divorce means the possibility of dividing Social Security benefits or retirement funds. If a couple divorces at or above the Social Security eligibility age, which is currently 62, their records must be evaluated to determine how much of that benefit each party should receive.
Pensions and retirement funds are typically considered joint assets for whatever was accumulated during the length of the marriage. This means that even if only one partner has a retirement account, both parties are entitled to those earnings.
3. Health and life insurance
If one spouse is not employed, they will likely lose their health insurance under their former spouse’s plan. This presents a major issue for older individuals who may struggle to gain their own insurance independently. Couples who are divorcing will need to consider this during asset division.
Many couples also have life insurance policies where their spouse is the beneficiary. If they remove their former spouse from the policy, that can be a blow to the other party’s financial future.
4. Handling adult children
Older couples who share adult children may assume their divorce will be less complicated because they won’t be creating custody plans or determining child support. However, adults can still have an emotional reaction to a divorce or feel like they have to take sides against a parent.
As much as parents may rely on their adult children for help, relying too heavily on their support could put them in uncomfortable situations. It may also force them to learn information about the other parent they wouldn’t have heard if they were still children, but it could be just as damaging.
5. Health issues
The toll of a divorce can cause health problems for anyone, but older divorcing individuals have extra cause for concern. Some research indicates grey divorce is associated with elevated depressive symptoms, chronic stress or anxiety.
Mental health can put physical health equally at risk. Depression is associated with heart disease, Parkinson’s disease and Type II diabetes. Long-term stress increases the risk of developing high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease and obesity.
Later-in-life divorces are unique and deserve extra attention to ensure each party is receiving the financial and emotional support they need for their future.