Thanks to the good health brought upon by medical advances and wonder drugs, today’s senior citizens are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. Perhaps this is one reason why divorce among older Americans, from age 55 through the 80’s, is on the rise. Facing the prospect of a longer, unhappy life together, increasingly individuals choose to opt out. The so-called gray divorces may be the result of a variety of factors in today’s society, including increased longevity, baby boomers’ focus on self-examination and expression, and the growing economic independence of women.
In a recent New York Times article, entitled The 37-Year Itch, writer Alex Kuczynski states that, “Divorce is no longer the special province of the 40-something red-Ferrari, mid-life crisis set. Among older Americans—the 55-plus crowd and those on into their 80’s—divorce appears to be more accepted and more common than ever, according to divorce lawyers, marriage counselors, and gerontologists.”
How does the breakup of a 30-year marriage translate to divorce mediation? . Mediation at the Centre for Mediation & Dispute Resolution (CMDR) is first and foremost a collaborative, problem-solving process, a process that does not lend itself as easily to legal negotiations. Fashioning details can become cumbersome, as spouses work individually with their attorneys, who in turn negotiate with the opposing attorney, and then report back to each spouse. In mediation, terms are structured and issues are resolved face-to-face in a timely and efficient manner.
Although the custody issues, parenting classes and planning for post-secondary education often do not apply with older couples, new issues come to the forefront. Timing issues related to retirement and support, as well as health concerns, emerge as major concerns.
Consider some other issues facing older divorcing couples:
What happens when one spouse is retired and living on a fixed income—what kind of support formula is equitable?
How do couples balance social security and pensions to establish future equity?
What about future needs for assisted living or nursing home facilities—who is responsible for payment?
If one spouse has stayed home to care for the children, are there provisions for academic support if that spouse wishes to return to school?
Does there need to be a schedule for holidays celebrated as a couple with children and grandchildren?
How will savings accounts for children and grandchildren continue to be funded?
How are health and life insurance benefits considered?
When facing the breakup of a long-term marriage, it is important to remember that the length of the marriage directly impacts the complexity of the issues to be resolved. Mediation at CMDR is designed to address the most complex situations and to simplify and resolve them. The result is an agreement that will have the longevity of the spouses for whom it is created.