Gray Divorce

When older people divorce, they often remember that there were good times in their past, which may include raising their children and watching them raise children. Older adults are often less angry. Based on their life experiences, they know that change happens and they will survive it. They are also keenly aware that they are in a phase of their lives where they need to conserve their assets and minimize their debts and make the most of the time remaining in their lives. They are also concerned about declining health and receiving care in their later years.

Many of these couples appreciate that they still care for each other. However, they have grown apart and want to live separate lives. They want to continue sharing family events such as family reunions, children marrying and grandchildren being born. They have many long term extended family commitments that they will want to maintain. They will want to give their friends the opportunity to continue their relationships.

Older adults see the value of using mediation or collaborative practice as a resolution process to meet their goals of maintaining family ties and conserving their estates. Based on their life experiences, they are opening to fashioning their own post divorce lives with the assistance of professionals.

While working in a respectful, civilized fashion may be easier with older adults, there are other issues to be addressed.

Adult Children: These children will still undergo emotional upheaval as a result of their parents' divorce. Do not assume that because they are adults, they can handle it easily. Avoid enmeshing them in the divorce. Do not criticize the other parent to them. Do not allow them to mediate your differences. Allow your children to grieve and suggest that now might be a good time to confer with a counselor.

Health Insurance: Many couples rely on one earning spouse to provide the health insurance coverage for the couple. Find out about Medicare eligibility and COBRA. If the other spouse is going to lose health insurance when the divorce is final consider options.

If the spouse is over 65, then purchasing Medigap insurance may be necessary.

If the spouse is not yet 65, the couple may consider separate maintenance (called legal separation in some states) until the spouse who will lose insurance reaches age 65.

If either partner has health insurance due to employment with the federal government, the other spouse may remain eligible for the coverage, post divorce.

Dividing Retirement: Be sure that you work with an attorney who is well versed in retirement division.

Continuing Employment: The decision to divorce made by one partner may require the other partner to reconsider whether he/she wants to continue working, rather than retiring. This may be necessary to build more assets to support the separate living arrangements. It may also be necessary to continue to provide needed insurance coverage until the spouse becomes eligible for post-retirement health insurance or Medicare.

Social Security: Become familiar, if you are not yet, with social security regulations. The social security website has lots of good information.

Divorcing older adults have unique challenges. It pays to work with professionals who have experience bringing such divorces to a successful conclusion.