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The Joy of An Ex - Challenges for Divorcing Couples 55 +

05th January 2012
By Jackie Rahmler in Divorce
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Copyright (c) 2011 Jackie Ramler

Although the divorce rate among couples over the age of 50 is traditionally low, it has been steadily rising in the last l0 or so years, especially for those 50-59 years of age. The reduction of social stigma and the increasing tolerance of separation and divorce is one reason why men and women over 50 are more likely to end a bad marriage than they used to be. Some breakups are second marriages that tend to have a higher divorce rate than first-time unions.

Another significant reason for the later divorce is the fact that the children are grown and have left the family home, leaving no incentive for the parents to remain together. Couples may finally feel free to do something about marital problems that have been brewing for years. Value systems and expectations in the relationship change, and there's less faith-based pressure to stay in a miserable marriage. After the children have gone, there's simply nothing there.

Some women are more likely to have worked outside the home and may have become economically independent. Others have been out of the workforce for decades and often have not been privy to the families' financial planning and decision-making. No matter what the marriage has looked like, the guilt of ending a long-term marriage can be devastating with the knowledge that the other partner is being left to fend for him/herself.

The Effect on the Family

Separation and divorce later on in life may have a significant impact on the children and the grandchildren of the family. Adult children can still suffer a sense of loss when the family structure they've known all their lives crumbles. They may also worry about their own marriages and there may be issues about whether or not both parents can attend family events for the children and sometimes for the grandchildren.

Even when children are grown, pulling them into the middle of the conflict can be just as damaging to them as when they were young. As well, it can negatively impact their relationship with their parents. Older divorced parents often open up about their problems and vent about their ex-spouses, thereby forcing children and even grandchildren to take sides.

After a long-term marriage, divorce can also have an impact on extended families. Often, deep attachments that have developed over decades cannot survive the bitterness and divided loyalties of separation and divorce. It's another deep sadness for men and women who are already suffering from the loss of a spouse.

No matter what precipitates the decision to separate, it is important that both parties seek independent legal advice before beginning to negotiate a settlement.

The Legal Issues:

A. Extra-ordinary Expenses:

Although parents divorcing later in life don't have to work out their children's custody and access schedules, there may still be issues around funding their children's post secondary expenses and any other extra-ordinary items such as health-related costs or extracurricular activities.

The guiding principle in determining the amount of any expense is that the spouses share the expense in proportion to their respective incomes after deducting the contribution, if any, from the child. Each parent's income is determined by provisions of the Family Law Act and includes payments for child and/or spousal support if relevant.

B. Spousal Support:

Although there is an expectation that each spouse will become economically self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time and in so far as is practicable, many women in this age bracket have been in a traditional role in the family as homemaker and may not have the training or the skills to become financially independent. They are often unaware or unprepared for managing their own finances and are vulnerable to signing a settlement that does not take into account their long-term needs. Their lifestyles quickly shift from financially comfortable to financially stretched.

Similarly, men can also experience a drop in their standard of living and are facing the payment of spousal support for an indefinite period of time. The worst point in time for separating from a financial perspective is with retirement around the corner.

The amount and duration of spousal support is based on a number of factors including length of marriage, the income of each of the spouses, age and health, living expenses, how much money is available to share and if one of the parties has been economically disadvantaged in the relationship. There is no one solution to determining eligibility for spousal support but rather each case must be determined on it own facts.


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