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How divorce is affecting older couples

Mon 10 Sep, 2018 / by / Divorce

When older couples in Illinois end their marriage, they may face some particular financial challenges. Divorce in this age group is on the rise, with three times as many people aged 65 and older getting divorced compared to 1990 and two times as many who are 50 and older.

However, these people could be dealing with financial instability as a result. In 2014, a study by the Government Accountability Office for the Senate Special Committee on Aging found that a single person 65 and older requires 79 percent of the income to maintain a household compared to a couple. Older people may also be more vulnerable to poverty after divorce, and this disproportionately happens to women. They have an 80 percent higher likelihood of living in poverty at the age of 65 or older compared to men.

There may be social costs as well. Even adult children might struggle with their parents’ divorce, and individuals may become isolated from the social circles they enjoyed as a couple. There are certain indicators that a person might be more likely to divorce. Second marriages, shorter marriages, and marriages between people with divorced parents are all statistically more likely to also lead to divorce. Women whose parents divorced have a 60 percent higher chance of also divorcing while for men there is a 35 percent higher chance.

It can be important for older adults to protect themselves financially during property division in a divorce. Often, the biggest marital asset is a retirement account or pension plan. However, people should be sure they understand the rules around dividing these kinds of accounts. For example, a document called a qualified domestic relations order must be used to avoid taxes and penalties when dividing a 401(k) or pension plan. This is why it might be advisable to have an attorney’s guidance throughout the process.