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Diamonds are Forever; Marriage Not So Much

While we have all become quite accustomed to hearing about divorce, people tend to flinch when we talk about a recent phenomenon known as “gray divorce,” or divorces between older adults. No one likes to think about the end of a marriage, much less the end of a long marriage. However, research shows that over the past 10 years there has been a huge increase in the number of these gray divorces. When it comes to navigating the sea of complex divorce laws, an experienced central Florida divorce lawyer is always the best starting point to discuss your options.

But why are older adults divorcing?

Some divorce because they were unhappy for decades and simply wanted to wait until their children were raised and out of the home. Others choose to divorce because of medical problems that make the marriage too difficult. Of course, there are still many seniors who, like younger folks, become involved in extramarital affairs. Sadly, the rising cost of health care is another unsettling cause of divorce.

In recent years, many older adults face unexpected long-term care expenses, such as nursing home or assisted living costs. Because of Medicaid rules, marriage can mean losing a lot of money if one spouse goes into a nursing home without taking earlier precautions. Medicaid provides basic care for nursing home residents, but it comes with some important conditions. First, it is not intended for the wealthy. That means if you make a lot of money and have substantial savings, you may have to spend those funds before Medicaid pays a dime.

While this may seem fair, many feel that it would be a shame to lose a life savings paying for a spouse’s nursing home care, only to leave him or herself destitute later. Elder law lawyers routinely use creative estate planning techniques to help older adults avoid losing their life savings to Medicaid, should they need long-term care.

Medicaid divorces offer hope

In the past few years, many elder law lawyers have begun referring clients to experienced divorce lawyers to seek advice about “Medicaid divorces.” These divorces are contemplated for the purpose of ensuring the spouse who still lives in the community does not lose a large sum of his or her retirement and savings. While there are special rules for preserving a portion of the couple’s assets without divorce, a couple with a high net worth may find a well-structured divorce just the solution, despite how distasteful it may sound.

Who gets the children?

Even those who divorce for more common reasons are finding that divorcing later in life includes some unique challenges. For instance, the children are all grown up. Unlike younger divorcing couples, older adults are no longer worried about who will take the kids to school or who gets them on weekends. Instead, it becomes a battle over the relationships that each parent has with the children. Although a couple may not be fighting over custody, they may still battle over who spends more time with the grandchildren or who has a better relationship with the adult children. Instead of being a court-driven custody battle, it tends to be a psychological battle over which person the children and grandchildren visit more.

Dividing assets late in life

One distinct difference between younger divorces and gray divorces is that older couples tend to have larger net worth than younger counterparts. This is especially true in the wake of the recent economic downturn. There may be trusts, IRAs and large pensions. These assets can complicate estate plans and make divorces more challenging. In fact, adult children may wish to be included in the dialogue and can have strong opinions regarding how assets are distributed, especially if there are children by more than one marriage. Ultimately, gray divorces can pose serious financial and emotional strains on the entire family.

If you or someone in your family is facing a divorce later in life, you should consult an experienced Orlando area family law lawyer who can guide you through the maze of issues facing your family. The lawyers at Goodblatt · Leo are prepared to assist you at this time.

GOODBLATT · LEO is located and serves clients in and around Orlando, FL.

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