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7 Challenges Of Getting A Divorce In Your 50s (That You Probably Never Thought About)

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What Is Gray Divorce? Dealing With Divorce After 50
Self, Heartbreak

Divorce is rough at any age, but especially your 50s.

Divorce statistics may be highest for people under 50, but the divorce rate for those over 50 have practically doubled since 1990. And for those over 50 who are ending a second or third marriage, the statistics are even worse.

Life after a divorce at 50 is unique, in both its immediate consequences and future outlook.

The upward trend of divorce after 50, led by the Baby Boomer generation, has been so dramatic that it now has its own epithet: gray divorce.

RELATED: 6 Things You Need To Know About Surviving A Gray Divorce

Obviously, there are characteristics unique to people and marriages in the "50+" stage of life.

Those who married in their 20s or 30s have history — and probably children — together. Many spouses have been together for more than half their lives, making their life and coping with divorce at 50 a veritable unraveling of a lifetime.

As life expectancies continue to climb and gender roles continue to equalize, there are more opportunities for individuals to grow. There are also more opportunities for them to grow apart, which contribute to their reasons for divorce. (A testament, perhaps, to the fragility of relationships and the need to invest in their sustainability.)

By the time people reach middle-age, children are beginning to leave home. And, while the idea of traveling, downsizing or redecorating may appeal to empty-nesters, the idea of life without the glue of “the kids” may not be so appealing.

That final drop-off at college orientation can hit home in a stark way if spouses have left their marriage on the back burner for a generation.

Consider, as well, that more women are working outside the home, and there is now less stigma attached to being divorced and remaining single. Even dating over 50 has become normal. 

Divorce is always a journey of excavation and rebuilding. But life after a divorce at 50 has some characteristics unique to the age of the spouses parting ways. And many of those characteristics come as a surprise.

Any divorce will have the primary focus of children and the division of assets. But dealing with divorce late in life will involve unique considerations for both parties going forward, even if the children are grown and gone.

Here are 7 things men and women need to know about coping with life after divorce when they're over 50.

1. It will affect the children

Children are not immune to the effects of divorce just because they may have left home by the time their parents split.

In fact, it is often the older children who have a more difficult time compared to their younger siblings still at home. While the younger children adapt to the gradual, daily changes, older children who have left home experience those changes in big chunks. And in their eyes, it may all just be “too weird.”

Moral of the story? Don’t assume that you are sparing the children by waiting to divorce if your marriage really needs to end.

2. The divorce process is tedious

Even in the most amicable divorces, the process takes an emotional and financial toll.

When divorcing late in life, there are usually more amassed assets. And the money spent on attorneys hired to fairly divide them can take a big slice out of what both partners walk away with.

3. Your finances will take a hit

Life after a divorce at 50 can be especially challenging, financially. By the time two people have spent a couple decades or more together, their finances are fairly complicated.

There is usually increased wealth, but a contrasting decrease in the ability to recover from financial setbacks after a break up. There simply isn’t enough time left to make up for what could be lost, both in the divorce and in future investments.

There are also social security benefits, pension plans and retirement plans to consider. It’s not just their current value that matters, but their future value and the age, health, and future earning potential of both parties.

There are also tax considerations to take into account when dividing and distributing assets, especially retirement funds.

It is imperative that both parties and their attorneys have a full inventory of assets and debts. Living in a community property state can mean a rude awakening to a partner who hasn’t been as involved in the financial details of the marriage as the other partner.

Having both an attorney and financial advisor onboard can help with understanding your options and planning for a future with limited earning years left.

RELATED: 9 Totally Legit Reasons To Get A ‘Gray Divorce’ — And What That Means

4. The job market will be a challenge

This is especially difficult for women who have devoted their marital lives to raising children or supporting husbands in demanding careers. The job market can be bleak.

Starting life after a divorce at 50 can be like starting a race on the final lap. “How am I going to make enough money to survive? I’ll be working the rest of my life!”

5. Being alone again is painful

Even if the marriage wasn’t a happy one, adjusting to life alone can be painful.

By this late stage in life, many couples have been together longer than they have ever been without one another. And some have never been alone.

If there are children involved, having to share custody will mean they're not around all the time. And this just adds to the loneliness.

6. You might lose friends

You wouldn’t think your friends would bail just when you need them most, but divorce can divide more than just marriages and assets.

It is not unusual for married friends to drift away after your divorce, or for divorced friends to compare your circumstances to theirs.

Being proactive about expanding your networks can help to ensure that you have both a support group and a social group as you go through your divorce and start your new life.

7. The cost of living goes up

Of all the “shockers” to starting a life after a divorce at 50, the most hard-hitting tends to be the financial devastation left in the wake of the split.

From basic living expenses to insurance and the IRS, the cost of living per person favors the married.

And women tend to take a harder hit. After a divorce, women recover emotionally more quickly than men but suffer financially much longer.

Given that women still carry the majority of the responsibility for childcare, they usually don’t have the same career and earning opportunities.

Women also live longer than men, which means they may be living longer with less.

Despite the negative consequences to divorcing later in life, there is the unexpected benefit of having a fresh start and getting to create what you want.

By going into your divorce with your eyes wide open and your financial matters, advisors and support system in place, you can push forward into a new comfort zone. You can create a meaningful and fulling life after a divorce at 50 or more.

RELATED: Gray Divorce: 4 Mistakes To Avoid When Getting Divorce After 50

Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach who helps her clients adjust to life after divorce. Learn more about Karen and her work at DrKarenFinn.com.

This article was originally published at Dr. Karen Finn's blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.