I have a good friend who says that the divorce calculator only subtracts and divides.  It does not add and multiply.  That’s not entirely true, because spouses who divorce do divide their incomes by half, but then they compensate by multiplying their monthly expenses by two.

And halving income but doubling expenses is just the financial bad karma of divorce, to say nothing of the emotional wreckage it often leaves behind – loneliness, despair, and depression are common side effects.

All of that is bad enough when one is a twenty or thirty-something and has time to make up the financial loss.  And is sufficiently resilient to rebound from the emotional loss, too.  However, what about those in their 60’s, 70’s or even 80’s who get divorced?  What about them?

You may say that not many senior citizens get divorced, right?  Wrong!  Since 1990, the divorce rate among those who are 65+ has doubled and shows no signs of slackening.  If anything, the so-called gray divorce is a boom for family lawyers.  And like any other trend, it will take a decade or two for the real effects of it to be understood, but for now we can say a few things for sure.

As hard as it is to divorce in youth, it doesn’t get easier with age.  Finding new partners is more challenging for the older divorced person.  Health care and health insurance, not particularly big issues for those in their 20’s and 30’s, are perhaps the biggest bugaboo for seniors and divorce doesn’t make finding and keeping good insurance – or good health – easier.  Actually makes it harder.  The loss of the shared history and family connections which a gray divorce entails is particularly tough on extended families.  How do you explain to your five-year-old grandson that his grandma and grandpa no longer love one another or will live together?

The reasons why divorcing young people should embrace the collaborative divorce process – its confidentiality, cost-effectiveness and hands-on control by the parties who get to design their own divorce – apply even more so to those who may find themselves embroiled in a gray divorce.

And the team collaborative divorce approach works particularly well for gray divorces.  As Proverbs puts it, “in abundance of counselors there is victory.”  The team approach permits the 65+ group to deal with divorce in the safest, most positive and supportive manner possible.  It permits them to maintain extended family relationships, be friends, provide sufficient economic support to one another and do honor to their long years of marriage.

The bottom line is that divorce is tough stuff, and age doesn’t make it easier.  Getting old isn’t for sissies, they say, and neither is getting old and getting a divorce.  With age comes wisdom, we are told, and to collaborate is the essence of wisdom, in my view.

Grace and peace.

Mark Lewis

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