If you’re a “gray divorcer,” you’re not alone: divorce rates for adults aged 50 and over have doubled in the past 25 years. While it may be a relief to extricate yourself from a long-term unhappy marriage, divorce at this stage brings unique challenges. Here are 10 steps to surviving gray divorce – and thriving once it’s over.
- Avoid litigation. Money is a primary concern for gray divorcers because there is less time to recoup financial loss. Litigation is the most expensive way to divorce (and also the longest), so try to settle through more cost-effective options such as mediation or collaborative divorce.
- Consult with a financial planner. Getting divorced later in life changes your retirement picture. You may not be able to stop working as early as you’d planned, or you may need to pick up a side hustle. A financial planner can help you readjust your finances to reflect your change in circumstances and protect you in your later years.
- Reassess financial support to adult children. Are you helping adult children pay off student debt? Contributing to their rent, or otherwise assisting with expenses? As much as you may want to continue your support, you need to be realistic about what you need to live on. Your children are adults and are responsible for paying their own way through life; that’s not your job anymore.
- Protect your physical health. The stress of divorce can be hard on your body, especially if you’re having a hard time sleeping and eating. Gray Divorcers may have more health challenges, or may simply have a tougher time bouncing back from stress than younger folks. Make sure you stay current with your medical and dental care.
- Get emotional support. Getting divorced after 50 can make you feel vulnerable. You may be afraid of growing older without a partner. You may have financial stress that you never anticipated at this stage of your life. If you’re feeling scared or depressed, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in life transitions.
- Write a personal mission statement. With chaos comes opportunity. Your divorce is an invitation for personal growth. The flip side to being alone after 50 is that you get to decide how you want to focus your time and energy. “Re-brand” yourself by writing a personal mission statement: list your values and your goals and make sure they’re in alignment. At the end of your life, you want to feel that you’ve lived with integrity.
- Practice self-care. Your ex may not be treating you kindly, but youshould be! Take time out of your divorce to exercise, see friends, meditate, get a massage, and deepen your spiritual practice. Taking care of yourself will help you weather the stress of divorce.
- Don’t treat your kids like your therapist. Tempted to treat your kids as your confidantes because they’re adults? Don’t. They don’t want to hear you complain about their other parent. They don’t want to feel pulled to take sides or take care of you. If you’re back on the dating scene, they certainly don’t want to hear about your sex life! Get a real therapist if you need to vent.
- Date wisely. If you’ve spent decades in a miserable marriage, you may be eager to see who’s out there. People often misrepresent themselves, especially on dating apps, so be wary of predators who try to take advantage of your vulnerable state, including your financial resources.
- Embrace a minimalist lifestyle. Your focus is now on maximizing post-divorce funds to protect your future. If you have to downsize to a smaller home, and/or sell possessions for cash, try not to focus on what you had. Cutting expenses and living with less “stuff” can actually feel liberating, especially at this stage in your life.
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