When is a person too old to divorce?
As a young attorney, I was surprised by the number of long-married couples who were calling it quits. Haven’t we worked out issues and differences after a decade or so?
Now that we are approaching our 40th Anniversary, I see that for the naive opinion that it was. We keep changing, growing, and needing to adjust and accommodate one another as the river of life flows by. There are challenges to kids going to college, retirement and health issues, and the disability or death of parents. Don’t take the marriage for granted.
According to the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate has more than doubled for people over 50 since the 1990s. The Pandemic is also adding to the uptick, says AARP’s recent article entitled “Getting Divorced? It’s Time to Update Your Caregiving Plan.”
A divorce can be financially draining. Moreover, later-in-life divorces frequently impact women’s finances more than men’s. That is because, in addition to depressed earnings from time spent out of the workforce raising children, women find themselves more financially vulnerable post-divorce and more likely to serve as caregivers again in the future. Even so, for partners of all genders, it is important to consider the longer-term financial outlook, not just the financial situation you’re in when you are actually dissolving the marriage.
You and your spouse will be dividing assets and liabilities and the responsibilities regarding spousal support. How one of you will live if the other gets sick or passes away should also be part of this conversation.
Consider where you’ll need to make changes. One may be removing your spouse from beneficiary designations on all your accounts. (In some states, this is automatic.) Your divorce agreement may also include buying life insurance or maintaining a trust or beneficiary designations for one another.
If faced with separation or impending divorce, create or update your estate plan immediately. Remember that as the attorney for a couple, I may have a conflict of interest and confidentiality issued for you to consider before disclosing new information or plans to me.
You should also ask your estate planning attorney to review your marital agreement. They will have suggestions about how to align your estate plan with your divorce obligations. If you and your ex are co-parenting children, your estate plan should address who their guardians will be, if both biological parents pass away. It is also important to address who will manage any inheritance, if you don’t want your ex-spouse handling assets you may leave them to your children.
While you may feel too old to divorce, you can still create your life care plan, which means naming health care proxies or surrogates (who will take care of your medical affairs, if you’re in need of caregiving), designating a financial power of attorney (who will take care of your finances and legal affairs), and naming a guardian for yourself if you’re incapacitated.
Consider the way in which your divorce will impact your children and extended family if you need caregiving. They may well feel that you are too old to divorce.
At a minimum, agree between yourselves what level of contact you can manage and, if you share children and loved ones, know that your lives will cross along the way.
While your marriage may not last, the connections will so make a wise plan.
Reference: AARP (Jan. 25, 2022) “Getting Divorced? It’s Time to Update Your Caregiving Plan”