Marital discord knows no deadlines. In the practice of divorce lawyers, clients of all ages and with myriad marital durations present themselves looking to end the relationship. But is there a point in a person’s life in which the correct decision is not to divorce?
The question comes up frequently when both members of the couple are over 60 years of age. The issues are very different than for a couple that is, say, 40 or 45 years old. The impact on lifestyles can be significant at any age, but for older parties, the time to reset and recover financially may be too short to be effective.
In the case of an abusive relationship or an unfaithful spouse, the decision may be easy. In a situation in which at the end of the day both parties will be independently wealthy, the financial effect of a divorce late in life will be muted. Some parties have premarital agreements that will dictate the outcome of a divorce in their latter years and can make the decision on that basis with more certainty of result.
The majority of older individuals who face the decision about a divorce later in life face more variables that factor into the choice. And it is a truly difficult decision in a number of cases. If you find yourself in this situation, a nonexhaustive list of things to consider that a younger couple might not need to contemplate includes:
-Retirement plans. Chances are the years left to built up wealth from continuing employment will be short, and it might also mean that a long anticipated retirement might have to be postponed.
-Federal benefits. How will Social Security, Medicare, and perhaps other federal programs affect divorce decisions? While state laws and private divorce agreements cannot change the way these programs work, they may solve problems that the parties face otherwise.
-Health issues. Parties may well have already identified, chronic medical problems that affect decisions ranging from whether they can work to the type of residence they can handle.
-Downsizing decisions. Some couples had already planned to reduce their expenses, perhaps by selling a large home, as their working careers came to an end. To what degree does a divorce change those plans?
-Estate planning. Sometimes, even despite a divorce later in life, couples continue to share the goal of providing for their children. A divorce settlement agreement, prepared in conjunction with an estate plan, can make sure that the children are nevertheless treated as the parents intended.
If you fall into this demographic, be sure to consider these circumstances as you proceed. Some attorneys may even ask whether a divorce is truly necessary.