Coping With Divorce Later In Life
By Lori A Grover, NCPM and Kevin J. Grover
Long days and tight budgets are just a few of the challenges that exhausted single moms‚ and ‘Disney’ dads spending time with their kids on the weekends live with as divorced parents with children, but the toughest road is the one divorcing couples in their forties‚ fifties or even sixties are traveling. Obviously divorce is difficult no matter what your age, however, couples who divorce later in life grapple with a much larger and more complex set of problems than younger couples do. Their divorce can affect their adult children and extended families, their financial security, their employment and even their ability to retire and if left unattended, or worse – mishandled, it can send them into a tailspin they might never pull out of.
The divorce of a mature couple is likely to effect the emotional and even the financial dynamics of their family to a greater degree and can affect their adult children more than you might expect. Couples who find themselves divorcing later in life should take extra precautions and the first and most obvious area careful consideration is needed is when discussing and negotiating matters regarding the division of wealth and property and sources of income and financial support, when necessary. A mature couple is likely to have accumulated a larger, more complex financial portfolio than a younger couple and so the division of monetary assets such as vacation timeshares‚ stocks and bonds, annuities‚ CD’s, savings accounts‚ retirement plans‚ real estate and pensions, all of which will need to be addressed in their Marital Property Settlement, should be handled with great care and perhaps the assistance of a trusted financial management professional or an attorney who specializes in tax law or estate planning. And then of course, there’s the division of debt… Poor judgement and selfish, short term thinking because of fear, anger and resentment comes with an even higher price as the time, energy and circumstances needed to replace retirement assets divided during an older couple’s divorce simply aren’t what they once were.
A couple divorcing mid-life should try to calmly and rationally discuss the division of their financial assets as the willingness to reach a sensible compromise can possibly save them thousands of dollars over time. Divorce Mediation is the best way to help establish a sense of fairness and cooperation in the process which will help minimize the risk of financial damage.
If the division of a pension or a deferred income retirement account is ordered by a Family Court judge as part of their divorce settlement it’s facilitated by a type of court order known as a QDRO (pronounced qua-dro)‚ or a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This document not only legally orders the division of the account according to the agreed upon settlement amounts, it eliminates any penalties and tax liabilities that typically apply for early distribution or withdrawal. It’s important to note that there may be actuary or attorney’s fees involved to process it‚ which customarily aren’t included in your divorce attorney’s retainer. Seeking the services of a qualified tax adviser or certified financial planner if you don’t already have one is money well spent when trying to determine the short, medium and long term consequences of dividing tax deferred assets such as 401k plans, pensions and annuities.
The Toll Divorce Takes On Older Couples
Changes in financial stability in addition to the need to modify existing family and holiday traditions‚ for example‚ can place tremendous stress on emotional and even physical health and play a significant role in delaying the start of any sort of emotional recovery once the divorce is over. Some who divorce at an older age at times feel very vulnerable, fearing that they won’t be able to find a job if necessary‚ and in some instances they may become so depressed over the loss they reject all companionship, becoming bitter and reclusive‚ unable to imagine the possibility of discovering another partner to enjoy the rest of their lives with – someone who might be in a situation just like the one they’re in.
Even if they couldn’t get along with each other for even five minutes‚ we’re all “creatures of habit” and the permanent separation from a spouse (or a home) of twenty‚ thirty or even forty years can be devastating to a person’s psychological well–being and self confidence. This can lead to depression or other emotional disorders such as the need to “hoard” useless items and old, worn out possessions. We can’t recommend counseling and support groups enough, even if for only a short while, to help manage these kinds of feelings.
Regardless of the reason, divorce is a process that some psychologists have likened to a death; the death of an intimate relationship that offered a sense of security and companionship, and additionally in older couples, the comforting idea of being settled in life and growing old together while you enjoy the fruits of your life’s work. The sense of emotional loss that can happen when this disappears can be devastating and if physical health problems are an issue‚ an additional set of concerns come into play which may intensify the financial security concerns‚ especially if they’re retired and on a fixed income. In these circumstances, a divorce can spill over into the lives of a couple’s adult children‚ possibly leaving them in the awkward position of having to burden them financially or otherwise which can be both humiliating for them and disruptive in their children’s marriage and family life.
How Do We Tell The Kids?
Adult children can have a tough time understanding how their parents of twenty‚ thirty or even forty years could possibly be splitting up. Conversely‚ their parents may have an equally difficult time explaining it. Children of a mature divorcing couple should take extra care to be tactful‚ patient and supportive of both parents equally, especially when asking those difficult to answer questions. The hard answers the couple’s adult children need – for their own reasons – will surface when the time is right so they should be patient.
At some point an older divorced parent may need to “lean” on their adult children for emotional support or assistance but that will usually happen when they are ready and comfortable enough to ask. It’s important to note that we’re using as an example a divorce where there isn’t a history of violence or abuse. If these conditions do exist‚ obviously a well thought out intervention with the help of trained professionals or even law enforcement is may be necessary.
The breakup of a long, well established marriage in a family will affect not only the couple’s children‚ but their grandchildren and extended family too. Adult children who may be having a hard time with their parent’s divorce might benefit from counseling to help them better understand and manage their own feelings about the changes they’re facing and will need to adapt to. And in regard to young children that are very attached to‚ or are cared for by their Grandparents‚ it’s very important for their adjustment process to discuss Grandma and Grandpa’s impending divorce with the appropriate professional help at the right time.
A divorce that ends a long marriage and divides a family is unsettling and may force those closest to the couple to endure some difficult conversations and fairly awkward circumstances, especially around the holidays or at family events. It’s important to remember that someone you love has been very unhappy and has probably been hiding it for much longer than you realize before you weigh in on their decision to divorce at this stage in their lives. After all‚ stuffy old parents weren’t always stuffy old parents… They were young and in love and they thought it would last forever like we all do when we get married and yeah, like you did. And although it may be awkward or even painful for those around them, it all comes down to quality of their lives and their happiness first and foremost‚ no one else’s.