Grey divorce survival can be particularly challenging, even though we know that divorce at any age is hard. Grey divorce survival can be made easier if you know a thing or two about divorcing in your senior years.
Over the past 25 years grey divorce has increased in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the average age of divorces has increased. In 2013, the average female divorcee was 42 years old while the average male divorcee was 44. This compares to 32 for women and 34 for men in 1990. The average age of brides and grooms is also higher than it once was. This is in line with the divorce rate of people in their 30s and 40s decreasing and the increase for those 50 and older.
Social researcher Mark McCrindle says, “We’ve seen the average age of marriage get later and people divorcing later. There’s a couple of other factors in addition to people getting married later, including people living longer, changing careers later in life and being more active later in life. Once upon a time, people would have said ‘I’ll stick it out’, but not any more.”
In America, the divorce rate for those over 50 has doubled since 1990. “At a time when divorce rates for other age groups has stabilized or dropped, fully one out of every four people experiencing divorce in the United States is 50 or older, and nearly one in 10 is 65 or older,” according to a report by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University.
Grey Divorce Survival: You CAN survive
The first rule of grey divorce survival is that you can actually survive. 71 year old Rod Nye has lived through a grey divorce. After 35 years of being married, he knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. “You come away and you think, ‘I’m now on my own and I’ve lost half of everything I thought I had’,” he says. Nye was certainly a ‘grey’ 68 years old when he and his wife split a few years ago. It took a significant amount of time to divide their assets. Nye says, “It was pretty convoluted and it’s all joined up. So you have family trusts, property and super funds, so it’s very hard. My wife used to do all the accounts, so I didn’t have a bank card and that was a bit of a shock.”
Nye – a hairdresser – was able to continue working part-time from the unit he purchased as his home after the divorce. “Working for the last three years has been terrific – it’s my saviour,” he says. “Divorce left a big hole and work fills a lot of it.”
Grey Divorce Survival Tips
Just like every marriage, every divorce looks different, but there are some general issues that apply to many. Here are some things to think about in surviving a grey divorce.
Just like you, the person you are divorcing has changed. The beginning of your marriage may have been sweet and comfortable, but divorce is not usually like that. Expecting that you will possibly disagree as to how assets will be divided will help you to cope when you no longer have a spouse ‘on your side’. It is likely to be an emotional rollercoaster. Expecting that can help you get ready for what’s coming, and get you through it.
It doesn’t have to be a fight. Bitterness only breeds bitterness, but neither do you have to be best buddies with the person you have separated from. It doesn’t matter how old you are, be as amicable as possible. There is no benefit in having a contentious divorce.
Think about your financial future with your head and not your heart. It’s a nice thought that you might be able to hang onto the family home in a divorce settlement, but the reality is that homes need maintenance, insurance and can tie up a lot of wealth. Sometimes it is better to sell the house and split the money.
Spousal maintenance is a consideration. After a relationship comes to an end, the spouse in the stronger financial position may be required to pay for the maintenance of the other. This will be the case only if the spouse in the weaker financial position is not able to self-support, and the spouse in the stronger financial position is reasonably capable of supporting their former spouse.
Superannuation can be split as part of a divorce settlement. If you have been the lower income earner then you won’t be left high and dry without some money for retirement, but it’s important to remember that the cost of living will only increase so continuing to save is a good idea.
Make new friends, but don’t start dating until after the divorce. Why? It’s wise. It’s great to have a support network so that you are not isolated, but jumping straight back into dating while emotionally wounded can lead to further heartache.
Keep your kids in the loop. One good thing about a grey divorce is that there are less likely to be any small children you need to work out parenting arrangements for. But adult children may react emotionally to their parents’ divorce. There is no reason to overshare if everyone seems to be adjusting appropriately, but parents shouldn’t have to keep the reasons behind the divorce a secret. Share if it brings resolution and is needed to help kids make sense of what’s happening. Equally, as with small children, don’t make your adult children pick a side. Chances are that they love both their parents, and shouldn’t have to choose between them. Whatever negative thoughts you might have of your ex-spouse, keep them from your children and tell a trusted friend or counsellor, instead.
If you can, take some time out after your divorce to think of your next steps. Write lists of what you want to do and what you can do. You may now have the freedom to do the things you’ve always wanted to do! A key to grey divorce survival may be to think of the positive aspects. No matter your age, you can finally go back to university, take up painting classes, or travel.
Our experienced family lawyers can help you to think through some of these issues. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. Please contact us today!