Going through the legal process of divorce is rarely easy for anyone. It can be particularly difficult, however, if you are a senior and have been married for decades. Though once uncommon, divorce among other couples now occurs with some frequency. Whether you are 25 or 65, the basic concept of divorce is the same. Seniors, however, face unique issues before, during, and after a divorce. A Murfreesboro divorce lawyer at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby discusses some of these issues as well as offers some guidance to seniors facing divorce.
Divorce Is No Longer Just for the Young
Not all that long ago, divorce was frowned upon no matter how old the parties were. Absent extreme circumstances, couples married for life and kept quiet about problems and/or their own unhappiness. It was virtually unheard of for an older couple to get divorced, the belief was that if you made it that far together there was no point in divorcing now. Adding to that was the belief that dating and romance were only for the young. Therefore, a late in life divorce was a sure fire way to ensure that you spent the rest of your life alone. Fortunately, much has changed in the last several decades. One of those changes is the divorce rate for seniors. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, the divorce rate for people over 50 has roughly doubled since the 1990s. Experts tell us there are several factors that contribute to the increased divorce rate among seniors. A significantly increased life expectancy is one of them. With Baby Boomers looking forward to living well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, they see no reason not to live those extra decades to the fullest. The societal and religious stigmas that were once attached to divorce have also all but disappeared, making it less stressful to make the decision to end a marriage. Finally, women tend to be more financially stable now than they were 50 years ago, taking some of the fear out of a divorce.
How Is Divorce Different When You Are Older?
While the legal steps necessary to end a marriage are the same at any age, there are some important practical and emotional differences in a senior divorce. For example, the division of debts and assets is part of any divorce; however, it takes on a heightened importance when you are at, near, or in your retirement years. Women are generally more financially stable than they were several decades ago, but the odds remain very good that a woman will suffer financially post-divorce while a man will come out ahead financially. The impact of a divorce on your retirement plans, in particular, can be catastrophic if you don’t think ahead. This is even truer if one party gave up a career to work inside the home. Finding any job as an older worker is challenging. Finding a job that will pay enough to live comfortably post-divorce may be impossible. Consequently, the issue of alimony, or spousal support, may play a much more important role in the divorce negotiations than it would if you were divorcing at age 35.
Health insurance and long-term care planning will also be more important factors in a senior divorce because both play a more vital role in the lives of seniors. Ensuring that a spouse continues to cover your health insurance premiums, for example, may be more valuable than getting assets in the divorce.
You may not have minor children at this point in your life; however, if you have adult children you will still need to decide how assets will be passed down to them in your respective estate plans after the divorce. That, in turn, leads to another crucial aspect of a senior divorce – the need to review and revise your estate plan after the divorce. If you have been married for several decades, your spouse is likely the primary beneficiary in your Will as well as for all financial accounts. He/she is also probably your Executor and possibly the Trustee of a trust as well as your Agent for an advance directive if you have one in place. All of this must be changed after your divorce.
Finally, the emotional aspect of a later in life divorce is frequently much greater than for a younger counterpart. Even if you are certain that a divorce is what you want, adjusting to being alone after decades of marriage will be challenging. Make sure you have a support group in place and seek counseling if you need it.
Contact a Murfreesboro Divorce Lawyer
If you are contemplating a senior divorce in Tennessee, it is in your best interests to consult with an experienced Tennessee divorce attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.