Healthy divorce tips when you are over 50

by Myra Chack Fleischer, CFL-S
Fleischer & Ravreby, Carlsbad, California

Divorce among people over the age of 50 is no longer considered unusual; it’s here to stay. The “gray divorce” revolution has changed the landscape for divorce in the United States.

Now statistics are bearing witness to this trend. A report by researchers Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin at Bowling Green State University in Ohio found the following:

  • The divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled since 1990
  • The divorce rate has more than doubled for Americans over the age of 65
  • One out of every four divorces in the United States involves at least one person 50 or older’ nearly one in ten involves someone 65 years or older
  • More than half of gray divorces are in first marriages; and more than half of these couples have been married 20 years or more

When people get divorced at an older age after many years together, some considerations become less important, such as custody of minor children. But there are significant new challenges, and many of these are health-related.

Anyone contemplating a divorce after age 50 should consider several key factors before making long-term decisions. The Collaborative Process provides an ideal platform to consider both the legal and financial aspects involved in a divorce for anyone over 50 or closing in on retirement.

Healthcare insurance costs. When divorce proceedings begin, you need to insure that all insurance premiums continue to be paid, especially if you are insured through your spouse via his or her employer. You do not want to risk having your health insurance dropped now, as health insurance can be more difficult to secure and more expensive when you are over 40.

Another consideration is life insurance. Your spouse may be tempted to drop his or her policy if you are the beneficiary. While it’s rare, it is possible that an accident could occur such as a fatal motor vehicle collision and you would be left without resources. The value of a life insurance policy can also be used as the basis for securing spousal support payments.

If you have a long term care policy, be sure those insurance premiums continue to be paid. It becomes much more difficult to get long term care insurance as you get older and it becomes more expensive.

You may need your attorney to get an order from a judge to make sure these payments continue during your divorce proceedings.

Long-term-care insurance costs. If you have a long-term-care insurance policy with your spouse, you need to find out what happens to the coverage when you get divorced. Some policies are issued as a single policy for both couples. This isn’t the norm today; most newer policies are separate, one for each spouse. You should notify the insurance company about the divorce and be sure you are billed individually. You shouldn’t lose any spousal discount right away

Caregiving costs. When older couples divorce, they lose the securty of someone to care for them as they age, something most younger couples don’t even have on their minds. What is the value of the caregiving anticipated by one spouse from the other that is now being lost due to the divorce? This is a future benefit that can be measured, and become part of a divorce settlement. This can be considerable. Even if you are both relatively young in this category, currently healthy, and have adult children that can in theory step in to help, things can change quickly in a dramatic way. Assumptions about where help is coming from can be faulty and greatly affect your quality of life. This is where litigation is of little help. Creative solutions may be called for. Your Collaborative Divorce team can help you and your spouse make good choices while working through the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of decision-making.

If you don’t have long term care insurance, this may be a good time to seriously consider it.

Healthcare power of attorney. Did you name your soon to be ex as your healthcare power of attorney? You may need to change it to another person who you’d like to make medical decisions for you if you’re no longer able to do so yourself. An adult child is often the default choice, but consider other options such as a sibling, or even a trusted friend.

Gray divorces are not for the faint of heart, and should not be handled in most cases by the parties involved. This is about your future and that future is right in front of you. Invest in thoughtful representation by an expert Collaborative Divorce team, and you will reap the benefits of securing a healthier future.