The generation that transformed our social conscience and brought us the sexual revolution continues to rewrite the playbook when it comes to love, marriage and divorce in the golden years.
While divorce among older couples was almost unthinkable until fairly recently, baby boomers are increasingly divorcing in their golden years after decades-long marriages. It’s a paradigm shift from generations past.
The phenomenon has been coined “Grey Divorce.” It represents yet another seismic social change from the same trailblazing generation which came of age in the 1960s, as they continue to reshape and redefine our social constructs regarding divorce in the golden years.
But what is behind this trend?
For one thing, it seems that baby boomers simply won’t settle for a mediocre marriage. They anticipate and look forward to their golden years as a time to rediscover their spouse, and renew their romance with intimacy and passion.
However, the reality often does not meet their expectations, as they discover that, after so many years of work and raising children, their spouse is not the same person they married decades earlier, or perhaps they themselves are the one who has changed.
While it’s a dilemma that surely must have confronted older generations, the baby boomer generation refuses to settle for mediocrity. They demand more. Sometimes this results in marriage counseling, or couples therapy and, other times, divorce.
In many of these grey divorces, the issues are superficially simple on paper, but, in reality, rather complex. More is often involved in dividing and distributing a nest egg that took decades to acquire, including the division of retirement benefits, real property, and businesses acquired or built during the marriage.
As such, it’s important to work closely with various professionals and trusted advisors, such as financial advisors, appraisers, and accountants, to ensure the assets that the couple spent decades acquiring are fairly distributed. The financial issues are compounded by the complex emotional dynamic in these types of cases.
After decades together, all the parting couple knows is each other, and often only identifies himself or herself in the context of the marital relationship. They likely have had the same friends for years, and run in similar social circles. To compound the anxiety, there is the common situation where one spouse had control of the finances for decades and the other hasn’t so much as written a check. It can be overwhelming and result in a host of conflicting emotions.
And so, in these cases, as in all cases, it’s important not only to consider and address the financial and legal issues at play but the emotional dynamic as well. As such, understanding what the parties hope to achieve from the process and how they wish to live in their golden years is crucial to enabling them to turn the page to the next chapter in their lives.
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Joshua B. Hecht
Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP