Senior Citizens and Divorce

When you and your spouse are senior citizens going through divorce, there are particular issues you need to think about, such as health insurance, estate planning, retirement plans, your adult children, and impaired decision-making capacity. This page describes how you can cope.

Health Insurance

If both you and your spouse are in your 60’s or 70’s, it’s more likely that one of you (usually the wife) has been out of the workforce for a number of years. This means, among other things that the wife is often dependent on the husband for health insurance. If you’re at or near the age of 65, you’re eligible for Medicare coverage, which can make all the difference. If you’re age 61, however, health insurance can be a huge issue.

Madeline and Juan needed to divorce but wanted to keep it cooperative if possible. Madeline owned and managed a small business, but she was dependent on Juan for her health insurance. She was 61. After analysis, we realized that the most prudent course was for them to agree now on the terms of their divorce and sign an agreement. This would allow both of them to move on emotionally and romantically. At the same time, however, they decided to delay their actual legal divorce until just after Madeline’s 62nd birthday. This allowed Juan to get coverage for her through COBRA from his employer for three years after their divorce, or until Madeline’s 65th birthday, when she would be eligible for Medicare.

Now admittedly Madeline and Juan are cooperative. You and your spouse may not be in the same mode. But if you are, you may be able to move creatively to get through the problems you face, even in divorce.

Relations with Your Children

It hurts to admit this, but the sad fact is that after divorce, one of the parents often has a more distant relationship with the children. In particular, husbands are vulnerable to seeing their children less. Research indicates they are likely to receive less informal care from their children and are less likely to live with their adult child.

Ties to children take another hit when one of the parents remarries. Even if remarriage doesn’t result in a physical move (which it often does), it often forces changes in social groups as well as ties with the church or synagogue.

Social Security

The 10 year rule means that the person who divorces a worker after 10 years of marriage is entitled to 1/2 that workers’ benefit as long as the spouse is unmarried. If the worker dies, the benefit is 100%, not just 50%.

Judges in equitable distribution states rarely consider the value of Social Security benefits in property division.

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