It is always heartwarming to see stories about an elderly couple that has been married for nearly their entire lifetimes. The late former First Lady Barbara Bush was married to her husband for more than 70 years.
But the reality of today is that “Gray Divorce,” among couples ages 50 and up, is on the rise. Over the last 20 years, the number of these gray divorces has doubled—and it is consistent even among couples where one or both of the spouses are on a second, or third, marriage.
Children are likely to be grown and on their own, so issues of custody, parenting time schedules and child support will probably not exist. However, gray divorce brings its own unique set of complex challenges which are seen from a different perspective than with younger couples—that of separating partners much closer to, if not already in, their retirement years.
This is where the Collaborative Divorce approach can help. A collaborative approach to matters including Social Security, income from 401ks and IRAs, pensions and health and life insurance plans is a far better process to address the distinct and personalized needs of older divorcing couples than the cookie-cutter formulas of divorce litigation. Simply put, when dissolving a long term marriage, one size does not fit all.
Collaborative divorce begins with an examination and full understanding of the financial picture. In the case of older couples this is more likely to involve a fully paid off home, numerous investments, retirement plans, pensions and other assets accumulated over decades. In collaborative divorce, an agreed-upon, impartial financial planner is brought in to work around the table with both spouses and their attorneys to develop a realistic and sustainable distribution.
Comprehensive financial planning will also assist both parties in adjusting to a new economic structure once the divorce agreement is finalized. For example, if this is a couple that had been married for decades, the wife may not have ever been aware of or handled the family finances. Careful planning is needed to insure that she not only understands the financial possibilities, but that the correct course is chosen to address her particular needs.
Psychological support is also provided, again by an impartial mutually agreed-upon mental health professional, as there are numerous emotional issues which can arise and often serve to derail progress. Perhaps one partner may not have ever envisioned living without the other, and gray divorce can have as much of an emotional impact as the death of a spouse.
Naturally, collaborative divorce may not work for every older divorcing couple, but often times can be a quicker, less expensive, less stressful and more equitable method for many. Learn more about whether collaborative divorce is right for you contacting Kim Ciesinski at KMC@ADRLawNY.com.
—Kim M. Ciesinski, Esq. PLLC
Alternative Divorce Resolution