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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching
The New York Times recently published an article describing the dramatic shift in aging Americans’ perspective of the Golden Years. The traditional view pictured two souls caring for each other into their late years. But, the past 20 years has seen more than a 50% surge in the divorce rate among baby boomers. A third of adults aged 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010. This contrasts with a 13% rate in 1970 according to demographers at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
The emotional, financial and social impacts of this shift are yet to be seen. The absence of spouses relying on each other for care will likely impact the families needing to provide aid to ageing parents creating both emotional and financial stress. Unmarried baby boomers are five times more likely to live in poverty than their married counterparts. They are also three times as likely to receive food stamps, public assistance or disability payments.
While sociologist speculate that longer life spans, changing social mores and economics are significant causative factors for the “going it alone” mentality, it is clear that the consequences are harsh without careful planning. This is especially true in divorce among older couples where retirement planning must be re-evaluated with little time for new investment.
California’s no-fault divorce laws assure an equitable property division, but the capability to provide support declines as spouses near retirement age. The current earnings and the retirement savings must now support two households with limited resources.
Managing the limited resources and planning the best uses of the combined financial wherewithal is a primary focus in divorce. Mediation tends to these issues by limiting the expense of resolving these issues and employing experienced facilitators committed to finding practical solutions that fit the family’s circumstances. Many elders facing divorce can ill afford to squander their nest eggs battling over the division of assets.
When marriages of great length end the changes can be profound. It is a time for careful consideration on how to preserve the quality of life for an ever-growing life expectancy.