Friday, October 2, 2015

Divorce and Older Americans

Divorce and Older Americans

FAQ's Answered by the Pros

Why would someone want a divorce at this late stage of life?

A. Quite a few couples over 55 divorce and the reasons are many. Often the health issues of one partner overwhelm the other and they just want to spend the time they have enjoying life and not at doctors offices. This is not necessarily age related, but many couples also find the differences in health and activity too much as time goes on. It is not uncommon to see couples in the hospitals struggling with these issues. Sometimes counseling can help heal both the ill patient and the relationship. The values held in common that brought them together will often re-create their bond. In many cases though, one or the other or both decide to divorce and live apart. Great sensitivity is required on the part of the family and the professionals handling these cases. Divorce ia a very vulnerable period in anyone's life, and health issues complicate this turmoil. 

Why would retirement cause divorce?

A. Retirement is another reason people get divorced at an advanced age. Sometimes only one partner can retire while the other will work 5 or more years until having permanent time off. When the retired one feels they worked hard and deserve to travel and enjoy hobbies, but the other spouse can't leave with a full retirement fund it creates friction in the household. What should have been a happy time becomes stressful. Maybe the working spouse relies on work and work-related relationships for their identity and does not want to leave the workplace. This also causes friction. Unless these issues are discussed well ahead of time, the transition to retirement can be a period fraught with misunderstandings, disagreements and sometimes divorce.

How does the The Empty Nest cause divorce?

A. Many couples manage to contain their differences for the sake of the family when children are at home. Then they find themselves staring from either end of the dinner table with nothing to say after the kids move out. Rekindling the relationship takes time and committment. Some people do not have the patience to do this step -or they have been waiting to ask for their freedom as soon as the kids were out. Transition moments are critical times in all relationships -job shifts, pregnancy and birth, moving or getting a house-and the empty nest is just another challenge for spouses to negotiate. When an empty nest ends in divorce there is grieving for the loss of the children and the relationship. It takes a caring and supportive staff to help both with the paperwork, negotiations and the family loss that occurs in divorce.

Divorcing because of catastrophic health issues -Why?

A. Sometimes one spouse is expected to need a nursing home in the years to come for some injury or illness. The diagnosis of early onset Alzheimers is scary for both partners and their finances. How will they afford the care they need? Medical insurance and Medicare do not cover nursing home care. Some couples divorce in anticipation of being responsible for catastrophic medical bills. Medicaid will go back for 5 years or more to recover medical costs abandoned by the family and check for money transfers or gifts to family. Divorce and long-term care planning can conserve half the assets for the spouse if it is done before an illness is critical and before the 5 year look-back period. There are many things to consider besides finances, and this is a tender issue both emotionally and financially. We do not recommend divorce for purely economic reasons, but some couples decide to go that route for a variety of reasons. Stretching the joint resources to meet healthcare needs often impoverishes the healthy spouse with many years to live. A house in joint ownership will have a lien put on it shortly after someone enters a nursing home. Half the equity value is reserved for the other spouse, but sometimes the lack of resources means there is little left for maintenance and the house deteriorates or is sold. Part of long-term planning should look at the marital status of the couple and see if there is any reason to change it. A skilled elder advisor can help determine what is best for all.

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