According to a recent article in the New York Times, more Americans aged fifty years and over are now divorced than widowed. The number of Americans over ager fifty who are divorced has increased sharply over the past half-century. In 1963, according to the article, this figure was less than three percent of the population. In 2000, this percentage rose to around twelve percent. In 2013, the figure rose again to over fifteen percent of Americans. Interestingly, although divorce rates overall have stabilized, the divorce rate among the over fifty population continues to increase.
The steady increase in this divorced population is due to a number of demographic factors, researchers assert. Americans are living longer and healthier lives. The population that comprises a large portion of over-fifty Americans is the Baby Boomer generation. Many Baby Boomers are in their second and third marriages and, statistically, they are more prone to divorce, the article states. Additionally, given the advent of Viagra and similar drugs, men who may have remained in long term, although failing, marriages are now divorcing and engaging in relationships with younger women, one researched posited.
The fact that more older Americans are divorcing raises serious financial implications. Over-fifty Americans, particularly retired persons or those facing mounting health care costs, will have a limited amount of financial resources from which to draw, both during the divorce process and on which to live afterwards. If a divorce is particularly acrimonious, the parties may spend a significant amount of their liquid savings and may need to dip into retirement savings to fund litigation. In long-term relationships, marital wealth may be bound up in real property, investments and other non-liquid assets, which require additional time and expense to liquidate and apportion between spouses.
There is little doubt that the financial effects of divorce will be felt acutely by older Americans. As a result, older divorcing Americans will need to balance the protection of their rights and interests bound up in the divorce process with their long-term financial well-being. In doing so, older divorcing Americans may benefit from using the Collaborative Divorce process, which employs teams of legal, financial and mental health professionals to coach parties on how to reach amiable, constructive and lower-cost resolution to divorce cases. Mediation and arbitration, with trained third-party neutrals or retired judges may also help divorcing parties work out their differences in a similar cost-effective and less acrimonious manner. For these reasons, it is important for over-fifty Americans to consult with an attorney when facing the prospective of a divorce, so that their interests - both legal and financial - are protected in the short and long-term.
By Hayden Lee