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Dealing with divorce in retirement

Dealing with divorce at retirement age is quite different than if you are going through it in your twenties or with a young family. There are varying obstacles to overcome, including how to share the news with your older children, and financial matters like property and pension splitting. Top tip: take a look at the Wiselaw Divorce and Pensions guide – a great starting point. To help you get in the know about divorcing later in life, we’ve put together some basic but helpful tips and advice. 

Why the increase? 

Statistics reveal that divorce rates amongst the older generation are increasing, despite the overall drop in divorce numbers generally. Many couples divorcing at retirement age have been married for a number of decades, although naturally, some of the figures relate to second marriages and those who chose to marry later in life. 

There are several reasons for the increase in divorce rates amongst retirees. A major one is that having stopped a full-time career, there is plenty of time to reflect and more time to spend with your spouse. This can result in the realization that you have been left with little in common. One partner may realise ‘life is short’ and decide to make the most of it by doing the things they want to, and not spending it with someone who doesn’t have shared interests.

It’s often the case that only one of the partners is passionate about starting a new life through divorcing, while the other is vehemently against it. One reason for this is that women are now more financially independent from men, and can seize the opportunity to explore new goals once children are settled into their lives. Although some people may still feel shame or a failure because they are divorcing, these connotations are diminishing over time. Today’s generation are also physically healthier which has brought about a new mindset of ‘living for the now. 

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How to deal with divorce in retirement

  • Share the news with adult children as a united front. Let them know together that your divorce was ultimately a joint decision and that the relationship isn’t going to work in the future. Tell them you are open to any questions and explain that the decision to divorce will not cause drama or a crisis. 
  • Maintain boundaries about your decision. For example, if family members insist that you reconsider your divorce or encourage you to do things differently, stay focussed on your choices, and recognize when people are trying to impress their opinions on you for their own gain. 
  • Don’t share too much about what is happening regarding your divorce – this means to steer clear of social media and sharing new developments or thoughts on what is going on. This can adversely affect your mental health and it may cause some antagonism with your ex-spouse too. 
  • Seek counseling if you are struggling with reality or overwhelmed by divorce in your later years. Doing this together with your former spouse can be helpful in some cases, helping to answer the inevitable questions each of you has and allowing each other to move on and gain closure. 

Finally, make sure you protect your finances. This can involve working out how to divide assets like property, investments and pensions. Doing this can feel especially daunting when you have just finished working, but don’t be afraid to get all matters out in the open and make sure you are being honest and receiving honesty about all financial assets. Discuss and agree on things before your divorce if this is possible. Doing this will make things easier and less expensive. 

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