How to Cope with Later Life Divorce

Written By Jennifer Pell

Among Americans aged 50 and older, divorce rates have doubled since the 1990s, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. Researchers postulate various reasons for this boom in what is sometimes termed ‘gray divorce’. On the one hand, we are living longer than ever before. Thus, someone in their 50s has decades of life ahead, and may find that over the years, they have become incompatible with their spouse. Secondly, there is less stigma associated with divorce – which is just as well considering that the current divorce rate stands at 40 to 50%. If you are undergoing a divorce in your 50s or later, how can you make the most of this new opportunity for growth?

Creating a Financial Plan

Getting divorced when you are 50 or older may throw a spanner in the works of the financial future you had envisioned alongside your spouse. Assets will have to be fairly decided, and spouses who have not worked outside the home during the marriage may have to consider joining the workforce to make ends meet. Creating a financial plan alongside a seasoned advisor is important if you are to avoid common pitfalls such as buying a new home too early or delaying job hunting. Your advisor will help you build up your own independent credit score, for instance, to ensure you obtain future financing if necessary. They will also suggest ways to raise finance if you are looking at buying a new home or investing in a new business. A good legal team is also key when it comes to informing you of your pension rights, life protection cover rights, and the like. The longer you have been with your spouse, the more tightly your finances can be tied together, so working out the partition between spouses is a process that should be carried out amicably but with the help of trusted professionals.

Dealing with Legal Issues

Although it is true that a divorce means that your retirement sum will be divided, it is important to be well advised on issues such as alimony – which is needs-based post-divorce, and dependent on earning capacities and abilities to work. Another issue to contend with is financial support for adult kids. If you have kids in college but you have been paying for their rent or food, for instance, you will not be legally obliged to shared college expenses with your ex-spouse, unless you sign a binding Property Settlement Agreement. Because there are so many legal intricacies involved, receiving legal advice with a view to peaceful settlement is important. A long-drawn-out legal battle may simply leave you in dire financial straits for longer than you can handle, though it is also important to ensure that you leave the marriage with a fair deal.

Building a New Social Network

One of the hardest things about starting over involves building a new network of friends. Some friends will still be around, but others may have originally been friends of your spouse, and may stick to them simply because of a lack of time. There are many tightly knit communities that you can decide to form a part of – everything from CrossFit to hiking, music, and even spiritually minded communities. As noted by Harvard academics, these communities play an important role in helping people feel supported and connected to a positive force that is larger than themselves.

Seeking Professional Help if Necessary

If the divorce was your spouse’s decision and you are finding it hard to come to terms with the big life changes involved, seeking help from a psychotherapist, life coach, or support group may be of help. Therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can essentially be helpful for anyone at any point in life (as can coaching), but these can be especially useful when you are facing a major life change. Your therapist or coach can help you prioritize your tasks and aims, and help you build a strategy that will help you feel like you are moving forward rather than remaining stuck in the past.

Divorce in later life is increasingly common in the United States but regardless of the fact that it can be a positive step for both partners, it is not without its challenges. Divorce may involve big changes such as seeking employment, selling a home etc., so sound legal and financial advice is key. Emotional support is also important, and it can be sought both through family and friends, and professionals specialized in the matter. No progress can be made without risk and movement, and a divorce could just be one of the most positive life changes you decide to make.