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Divorce issues for elderly couples

The divorce rate of those over the age of 50 has doubled since 1990, and it is only expected to continue to increase.

Unlike younger parents who divorce and must address issues of child custody and child support, older parents who are seeking divorce must also consider how their divorce will affect their adult children. In this regard, there are two specific issues that must be addressed. These are the financial and emotional implications of what has been termed a "gray divorce."

Let's look at the financial issue first. When elderly couples divorce they will no longer share the costs of living. Instead, they will need to consider the annual costs of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and home health aide charges.

For economically vulnerable couples in Illinois, such as those who are poor and without health insurance, or who live with a disability, divorce is a good time to consider what one's future goals are and how they will be provided for. Other financial issues that will need to be addressed surround Social Security benefits, pension rights, division of property and whether a spousal support agreement is in place.

Emotionally speaking, divorcing parties must realize that the emotional support one had during past several decades will no longer be there. However, placing children in the middle of disagreements or depending upon them as one did a spouse should never be part of a divorce plan, even when the children are adults. Keep in mind that even adult children can feel anger and resentment at one or both parents for ending their marriage.

These issues definitely need some thought. Realizing that adult children may have to become responsible, not only financially but also emotionally, for their parents in their old age may come as a shock. Planning ahead of time can help adult children ease into the realization that their parents will not be married for the rest of their lives.

Source: Reuters, "Double the trouble when divorced parents get old," Chris Taylor, Oct. 19, 2012

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