According to the most recent statistics available from Statistics Canada (2008) , there were 852 divorces where both partners were 65 and older. Based on my experience and the clients I see, this trend is growing. When divorcing after a long term marriage or at an age where retirement is closing in, such ‘grey divorces” pose unique challenges.
If one spouse stayed at home while the other worked or has retired, it is difficult to face the financial realities of dividing assets and debts as well as splitting retirement income. Many people assume that after divorce, they expect to keep same standard of living through the division of assets and spousal support. The ex-spouse receiving support may have to eventually earn his or her own income. Finding employment can be very difficult in the current economy, especially for those over age 50.
After years of marriage, divorce at this stage of life can be a financial as well as am emotional shock. Couples facing divorce at older ages are more likely to suffer from medical problems, and complicated family issues. These issues require careful attention, management and support. Working through a settlement outside the courts, through mediation or collaborative divorce allows “grey divorcing” couples the opportunity to look at their futures and create a settlement that can meet their original retirement plans.
Since most of the settlement issues are financial, working with financial professionals who specialize in divorce is critical. They can help identify all assets, debts and income from the marriage. They can help develop realistic post divorce budgets. They can help couples, working together with their lawyers/mediators, make a plan to match the divorce outcome to their desired lifestyle after divorce and into retirement.