When to marry is an important and exciting question for many couples. But the timing of divorce, especially late-in-life divorce is often of greater consequence.
According to the ABS, Australians are getting married later and staying married for longer. So, it is little surprise to learn that late-in-life divorce, commonly referred to as “grey divorce” is on the rise.
In recent years the largest share of divorce has been between men and women aged 40-44.
And the proportion of divorces involving men and women over the age of 50 has remained steady at 35% for men and 26% for women.
So, what are some of the key things to consider if you’re heading down the path to a late-in-life divorce?
Money matters and financial planning
Apart from working out child custody arrangements, negotiating the fair and equitable distribution of assets and liabilities is often the next biggest concern for divorcing couples.
Late-in-life divorcees are more financially vulnerable than couples divorcing earlier in life. Typically, their assets are all they have and there’s less time and there are fewer options available to increase these before they retire.
When assets and income are divided they can also face a drastic reduction in living standards.
Although men and women now tend to both forge careers and create more financial control and independence, divorcing late-in-life does make it more difficult to financially start over.
But late-in-life divorce can create some opportunities. By using superannuation and aged pension creatively it may lead to workable retirement and estate planning for both parties.
Before flying solo financially, speak with an accountant who understands divorce matters and can help map out an adequate financial plan.
Staying employed and finding paid work
For divorcing couples, the realization that splitting the family unit will mean radically reducing the household income can come as a rude shock.
This can be especially challenging for older adults who have been out of the workforce for an extended period and need to re-enter the job market to simply earn an income that allows them to maintain a certain standard of living.
For an “at-home” spouse, more commonly the woman, finding work late-in-life can be more difficult than expected.
Maintaining a regular income will not only help provide for the here and now, but it will offer financial security for the future and benefit adult children and grandchildren.
Seeking advice from a reputable financial adviser may help to map out your short and long-term financial needs and goals.
Singledom and shifting social circles
Long-time married couples, especially those with children tend to create friendship groups and social networks with other couples who have kids.
When a couple divorce, these friendship groups tend to fizzle out and it can be difficult to maintain the same friends and level of connection. It can be particularly hard when the social group is also the support network.
A part of the divorce process is starting again. Recognizing a shift in your social and support network can help in building new contacts, joining social groups, and becoming engaged in unfamiliar activities. All of which are an important part of creating a new life as a single person.
Breaking up the family unit
Divorce impacts everyone and children are often the most affected.
Younger children living at home can often feel the brunt of a family separation. For couples divorcing late-in-life, they typically have older children, in some instances adult-age who have the left home.
Which can be a good thing as it means child custody and child support aren’t complicating factors.
But no matter the age, the breakup of the family unit leads to many changes – the physical separation of the parents, by and large, the most obvious. The same common initial reactions to a divorce of confusion, denial, and fear can be felt by children of all ages.
It’s important to communicate with your children early in the process to ensure they understand the reasons from each parent’s perspective.
Understanding the cost of divorce
For couples and families who experience separation and divorce, the total cost comes in many forms – emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. However, it’s the financial cost of divorce that is the most tangible.
Reduced income, increased expenses, and diminished living standards can lead to sizeable financial hardship following a divorce.
Late-in-life divorcees may be less willing to engage in expensive legal games and consider court proceedings a last resort.
Family dispute resolution, like mediation, as well as arbitration, collaborative law, and other forms of alternative dispute resolution promote faster and inexpensive means to settle disputes.
Seeking legal advice or speaking with a family lawyer who specialises in other types of dispute resolution can help couples decide on the process that best suits their needs.