Florida family law: the phenomena of older divorce

Divorce is difficult at any age, of course. But in the golden years, it can bring unique challenges, whether in a split after decades together, or in a second or third marriage. Major issues can include property division, alimony and even living arrangements, causing concern and stress for the divorcing spouses themselves, and often for their kids and extended family.

Recent research on the trend of elder divorce out of Bowling Green State University has been heavily covered by the media. Bowling Green sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin found that the divorce rate for people 50 and older has "more than doubled since 1990."

Of course, since Florida is one of the nation's top states for senior-citizen retirement, divorce among older Floridians likely keeps state courts busy. According to Econographic News, a newsletter of the Florida Legislature, more than 17 percent of Floridians were age 65 and older in 2010 and projections are that elders will make up almost one-quarter of the Floridian population by 2030.

The numbers have it; "gray divorce" will continue to be a major legal issue in Florida.

Careful division of resources and assignment of support and expenses

As people age, their ability to engage in work that brings in a living wage declines for several reasons. So anyone divorcing at an older age will need to be sure that he or she comes out of the union with enough assets to live in retirement. An experienced divorce lawyer should be retained to guide and negotiate on behalf of such a client with an eye toward seeing that adequate resources will be available.

Such needs may be unique and must be carefully addressed in any divorce settlement. For example, will a spouse need to pay for in-home nursing care or housekeeping services that were previously performed by the other spouse? Will transportation expenses increase for someone whose vision does not allow them to drive, but during the marriage the other spouse could do the driving?

Every senior contemplating divorce should perform a careful inventory of personal needs and probable new expenses that will be incurred when he or she becomes a single person, including those likely to evolve as time passes in older age. These needs should be front and center in any divorce negotiation and may involve such issues as determining who should pay for and take out disability, life, medical and long-term care insurance, when needed.

If you face a gray divorce in Florida, be sure to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney about your unique needs and concerns.