Boomer divorce rates spike, highlighting unique needs

Baby boomers have started divorcing so frequently in recent years that the trend has earned its own nickname: gray divorce. According to a study conducted by Bowling Green University, divorce among older couples doubled between 1990 and 2009. What's more, the phenomenon shows no sign of stopping: One in four U.S. divorces in 2010 involved people over the age of 50, USA Today reported recently.

Some experts suggest that longer life spans combined with changing social mores may be fueling the trend. Whatever the explanation, divorce after 50 often involves a different set of challenges and considerations than those faced by younger couples during divorce.

Retirement

Whereas child custody and child support tend to be dominant issues in divorce settlements involving younger couples, retirement assets often take center stage when older individuals are involved. Many couples spend decades planning and saving for their retirement years, and a divorce later in life can alter these plans dramatically.

When a couple parts ways closer to retirement age, the funds that had been intended to support a couple must be split in two and used to support two individuals living apart, which is typically a far more costly scenario - as much as 30 to 50 percent more, according to some experts. This unexpected change in circumstances can throw a wrench in the works for even the most carefully planned retirement.

For couples in which one spouse was the primary breadwinner, the effects of gray divorce can be even more acutely felt. For example, a parent who left the workforce to raise children may be entirely dependent on his or her spouse for financial support. Under these circumstances, the loss of anticipated support in old age can strike a particularly devastating financial blow.

Health care

Health care is another area that can be dramatically affected by later-in-life divorce. Even relatively healthy people tend to need more medical care as they grow older, and the costs of health care and insurance can quickly add up. For divorced individuals, the costs can be even higher - especially if a serious illness or disability should occur. Without a spouse to help provide care and support, an older person who becomes ill after divorce may have an increased need for in-home care or other costly services.

Because divorced spouses typically cannot remain on one another's insurance plans, it is important to consider the cost of medical care and related expenses when creating a divorce settlement agreement. An experienced divorce lawyer can help clients understand their options and aid in negotiating a settlement that will provide for their financial needs in every aspect of life after divorce.

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