The primary focus of discussions about the impact of gray divorce – which is a term used to describe a divorce that occurs later in life – is often the effect the divorce may have on someone’s retirement savings. Experts are quick to point out that lost retirement savings may translate to several additional years working or a lower standard of living than someone expected during retirement.
These are, of course, noteworthy concerns for older adults considering divorce. However, there are numerous factors beyond just your retirement finances that can create challenges in divorces that occur later in life after many years of marriage. These are just some of the surprising obstacles people may encounter when divorcing in their 50s and beyond.
1. Highly emotional children
Young children often do not understand what has caused their parents to divorce, let alone how it will affect their family. Older children, especially adult children, are more likely to blame one parent for the divorce and to take sides. A divorce can quickly cause tension between parents and their children and among siblings when children are already adults.
2. Changing social opportunities
Especially when other people question the motive behind someone’s specific decisions – like suspicions that an individual divorced because of their spouse’s health issues or because they were unfaithful – a divorcing adult may find that their long-term friends or neighbors don’t want to continue their relationship as a result of their divorce.
Even if they don’t blame a divorcee, long-term friends may want to prioritize socializing with those in marriages themselves rather than divorced or single people. People often have to rebuild their friendships after divorce.
3. Independent living may be a concern
It is easier to plan to age in place and stay at a family home indefinitely when someone knows they will at least have the support of a spouse who could call for emergency services or notice when they show symptoms of some kind of health concern. Living alone later in life may pose health challenges that people have to address, possibly by deciding to live close to family or with a platonic roommate.
Gray divorces have become more common in recent years. People want happier retirements, and they may realize they need to end their marriages to achieve that goal. Anyone contemplating a divorce after a long-term marriage or later in life may need to address unique concerns, like complex property division matters, social fallout and independent living concerns that aren’t generally an issue for those still years away from retirement.