After 30, 40 or even 50 years of marriage, many couples begin finalizing their plans to retire together. But for some older couples, this is the time when they start planning for divorce.
Unlike other age cohorts in Canada, divorce rates among couples over 50 is spiking, and this trend is leaving some nearly-retired men and women in a very difficult situation.
The rise in grey divorce can be attributed to numerous factors: people are living longer and don’t want to spend another 20 or 30 years in an unloving or unrewarding relationship, fewer female partners are financially dependent on their husbands and are more willing to leave, and the stigma that once surrounded divorce continues to dissipate.
From a legal and technical standpoint, the divorce process is no different for couples who decide to separate after a long marriage, as opposed to a shorter one, but there are some key differences that make grey divorce unique.
The division of assets can be a complex process
After decades of making CPP contributions, investing in retirement funds, incurring debts, and paying off mortgages together, untangling all of these things can take time. Furthermore, updates to your will, powers of attorney, and beneficiaries will have to be made. It is highly recommended that each party hire a lawyer to ensure assets are divided fairly, and all changes to documents are legally sound.
It is often more difficult to rebuild finances
Couples who split in their 30s and 40s still have time to rebuild if they suffer finical hardship as a result of a divorce, but that’s not the case for couples who are nearing retirement or are no longer working. Those that are living off of a fixed income, or who have very little in their savings accounts, will often have to make significant life changes, including moving into a smaller home or apartment, cancelling post-retirement travel plans, and perhaps finding part-time work. One spouse may no longer be entitled to the other’s healthcare benefits, which could be quite costly if he or she requires regular medical care. That being said, couples who are able to work collaboratively can finalize their divorce more quickly, spend less on legal fees and decide on a fair agreement that doesn’t leave one partner financially devastated.
It can be an emotionally overwhelming experience
Every couple who goes through a divorce will experience anger, sadness and loss. But those emotions can be amplified when separating from someone who you’ve spent most of your life with. Even if both spouses agree that divorce is the best option for them, the process will not be easy. A counsellor, and strong support team of friends or family, can help a newly divorced person cope and find some normalcy again.
Do you have questions about grey divorce? Book a consultation to speak with one of our lawyers, free of charge.