People divorcing after the age of 50, often called grey divorce, recognize that they have some different financial and emotional issues not faced in younger couples who divorce. As I wrote earlier, navigating a grey divorce with dignity is often an essential requirement for later in life divorce. Complicated assets, financial commitments to adult children, and retirement planning may all be in play. Equally important to divorcing couples who have a long history together, is the need to develop the emotional tools to negotiate a divorce and reach an agreement that allows the couple to maintain a cordial relationship and jointly participate in family events. While all of these issues are not unique to grey divorce, that fact that older couples do not have the time to start over and rebuild their life, and in fact may want to maintain many aspects of their current life in the future, makes a divorce team of specialized professionals essential to help the couple address their short-term and long-term needs.
How Mediation and Collaborative Divorce Meet the Needs for Later In Life Divorce
A divorce team is a key resource in alternative divorce processes such as mediation and collaborative divorce. The divorce team is often made up of neutral specialists who help the couple jointly and independently to get the information, emotional support and resources they need to make decisions about their future. A key benefit of the divorce team is they are trained, experienced divorce specialists in their own field and bring in knowledge and expertise to help couples navigate unknown territory, typically at an hourly rate that is lower than a divorce attorney. Divorce attorneys are a critical part of the divorce team, but they are not therapists or financial experts.
Every couple and each divorce is unique and requires different types of support and solutions to reach a divorce agreement. Often a divorce team will consist of:
- Divorce Attorneys who manage and protect the legal aspects of the divorce
- Financial Specialists who provide an independent and neutral analysis of assets, cash flow and retirement funds and strategies
- Divorce Coaches and Family Specialists can help each partner develop the emotional tools to cope with the divorce, help them plan for the future and help find solutions to allow the family unit to remain as cohesive as possible
Working together, the divorcing couple and their divorce team find creative solutions to negotiate divorce without litigation – and without the emotional toll and financial cost often accompanying a traditional divorce. There are many benefits to a divorce team in grey divorce to meet the special needs and circumstances of later in life marriage dissolution.
1. Maintaining the Marital Lifestyle
Older adults typically have a higher net worth and complicated assets to protect when they divorce. They may have enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle as a married couple and are concerned about whether they will be able to maintain that same lifestyle going forward if they divorce. Not only do they see their earning years winding down but they could have life expectancies of 30 or 40 more years to make their assets last. Downsizing is typical in families as a couple grows older and children grow up and move out of the family home. Some changes in lifestyle are natural as people age, but it could be difficult for a couple to forecast what those changes will be at the time they are divorcing. Neutral financial advisors are an essential part of the divorce team because they will help to identify the best options that will allow both parties to maintain their standard of living while equitably dividing real estate, savings, investments, and businesses.
2. Continuing to Financially Assist Children and Grandchildren
Many couples have made long-term commitments to their adult children and their families, such as paying for educations, transferring generational wealth or having involvement in the family business. Despite the decision to divorce, these couples want to make financial decisions that will honor their family commitments and not waste money on divorce litigation. Financial advisors can find mutually beneficial solutions to help the couple maintain separate lifestyles and continue to financially assist their children and grandchildren.
3. Dealing with Emotional Issues and Stress
Divorcing later in life can be traumatic, even when both parties want the marriage to end. Each partner may have a full life with work, family and community responsibilities. There can be a lot of fear about the future and sadness for what is gone. A divorce coach or family specialist on the divorce team can help each person manage the stress of divorce and approach divorce as a forward-looking change and not dwell in the past. In a grey divorce with potential remarriage, adult children and their families often have additional emotional issues regarding new parental lifestyles and relationships, as well as concerns about how future family events will be handled.
4. Needing Privacy and Respect
After working for years to gain respect in their communities, churches, synagogues and workplaces, older divorcing couples don’t want to risk their reputation by battling it out in court, where their divorce proceedings may be on public display. Although couples may enter a traditional divorce promising to respect each other, court proceedings are adversarial by nature and the judge has limited options. A mediated or collaborative divorce is conducted in private, behind closed doors, where creative and innovative solutions can be negotiated that maintain your dignity – and privacy – and allow you to maintain an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse.
5. Retirement Planning, Long Term Care and Health Care
When a couple is divorcing in their 50’s, 60’s or even 70’s, the fact that their retirement savings may be less than optimal becomes a glaring reality. Additionally, for some couples, there is a significant difference between incomes earned in the past and incomes earned now or in the future. Long-term health concerns may also be coming into clearer view. The divorce team will be able to help these couples determine how they will be able to support themselves on reduced incomes, how to pay for long term care and health care coverage. The goal is to help every couple divorce with as much financial, physical and emotional security as possible.
Issues faced in grey divorce are challenging. Divorce Professionals can help couples divorcing later in life make the best decisions that make financial sense and is the best way to negotiate an amicable divorce that preserves your dignity. If you would like to discuss how to end your marriage in a non-adversarial way without litigation, contact Vacca Law & Mediation.