Baby boomers introduced a lot of new trends to the world: feminism, contraceptives, women’s financial independence – and divorce. Prior to 1968, dissolving a marriage was uncommon, but following the enactment of Canada’s first unified divorce law, the divorce rates rose sharply.
Since the Boomers were at the forefront of the increased Canadian divorce rates, it makes sense that they’ve continued to forge a new trend: “grey divorce,” or ending a marriage after several decades. These “silver splitters” are finding a multitude of reasons to end marriages they are unhappy in, even after they’ve been together for thirty to forty years.
Stats Canada has stopped recording data on the ages of divorcing couples, but there is still a clear and noticeable trend in the legal world. Firms are seeing a higher median age of divorce due to a spike in divorces in couples aged 45-60. So what’s going on here?
Why are Boomer Divorce Rates in Canada on the Rise?
Although there is no solid data from Stats Canada on why the median age for divorce seems to be going up, there a few factors that are certainly contributing to the increase in silver splitters:
- People live longer. The average life expectancy in Canada is 82 years! Once we’ve retired and the kids have left home, there are still many more years ahead of us. If you’re in an unhappy marriage, that might not be an enjoyable prospect.
- Many Boomers have already survived a divorce. Lots of people are on their second marriages by the time they retire. Those who have already divorced once are more likely to be willing to do it again.
- People are living well. Canadians over 60 are living active, full lives. They enjoy greater financial security and better physical health than any of the generations that came before them. This means they’ll be more likely to be dissatisfied with an unfulfilling marriage.
What Does it Mean to Have a Late-in-Life Divorce?
A grey divorce comes with its own, specific set of concerns that are much different from divorces that happen earlier in life. Child support and custody arrangements are often no longer an issue, and you may not even have to worry about how to deal with the mortgage if the marital home is paid off.
On the other hand, silver splitters have other worries that younger couples don’t have to deal with. The biggest consideration is your retirement plan. Ending your marriage at this stage of life can seriously affect your retirement or even derail it altogether. Under some circumstances you may be entitled to a share of your spouse’s retirement savings as part of a divorce settlement, but that may not be enough to live on. Careful financial planning is essential before deciding whether or not to dissolve your marriage.
Even if you can still retire on time, or if you’re still working, your income will be significantly reduced. Learning to live on a smaller income can be extremely difficult, especially after you’ve gotten used to a certain standard of living over the years. If you can afford it, a consultation with a financial planner can be extremely helpful to set a new budget and figure out how to stick with it.
Aside from the financial considerations, there’s also your health to consider. If your health starts to fail – or even as you go through the natural aging process – it can be tough to manage on your own. However, this isn’t necessarily a reason to remain in an unhappy marriage. Many divorced Boomers are managing this by forming intentional communities by strengthening existing friendships or being active in their churches or local seniors’ centres. By making an effort to form a solid circle of friends and family, you’ll ensure that there will be someone to call on if you ever need assistance.
Lastly, don’t forget about the effect a divorce will have on your children. It won’t be the same as if you’d split up when they were small, but seeing your parents end their marriage is stressful at any age. Teenagers and adults are better-equipped than young children to handle such a big change, but it will still be hard on them. Finding ways to help your children feel secure, no matter how old they are, is still important.
Life After a Grey Divorce
Life after divorce looks much different when it happens later in life from what it would have if you had ended your marriage earlier. Getting a divorce after so many years might feel like a failure – but you can look at it as simply the end of one phase of your life. Perhaps you could think of it as retiring from your marriage as well as your career.
Plus, ending your marriage doesn’t necessarily mean ending your relationship altogether. Many divorced couples remain friendly and even maintain a close relationship after the marriage has ended. It’s common for couples in the “empty nest” phase to discover that they still care about and respect each other, but no longer feel that spark of romantic love. If this is the case for you, then it’s possible that you’ll find your relationship improves after the divorce.
It’s also possible that you’ll find new love. Plenty of older divorcees remarry, even well into their retirement years. If you do marry again, be absolutely sure to get your house in order by making sure all of your legal documents are up to date with your current situation. Update your will, make sure your life insurance policy specifies the correct beneficiary, and double check the names on the deed to your home so that you don’t inadvertently leave your new spouse in a vulnerable position in the event of your death (and vice-versa). Depending on the assets you’re each bringing into the marriage, you may even want to consider signing a prenuptial agreement in order to head off any potential issues in the future. Talk with your lawyer before you remarry to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row before finding out the hard way that you’ve forgotten something.
Galbraith Family Law Handles Divorces at Any Age
If you’re considering a late-in-life divorce, consult the lawyers at Galbraith Family Law. We have plenty of experience in helping couples end their marriages, no matter what stage of life they are in. We’ll make sure all the details are sorted out – and if you decide to remarry, we can help you ensure that all of your legal documents are updated to protect yourself and your new spouse. Get in touch with us by sending a message through our website or calling us. Our Newmarket office is at (289) 802-2433 and our Barrie office is at (705) 302-1102.