Over the past 20 years, the divorce rate has skyrocketed to 50% among people over age 50, according to the 1990 U.S. Vital Statistics Report and the 2009 American Community Survey (administered by the U.S. Census Bureau). And the cost of divorce can run upwards of $20,000 – although it doesn’t have to.
Getting divorced after 50 is a lot different than divorcing when you're younger, and it’s important that you are armed with the right information. Read on for some simple guidelines to help organize the most important issues involved in this life transition.
Step 1: Find a Support System
Divorce can be a lonely and isolating experience at any age and many find that when faced with separation, they do not have strong enough support systems—yes, you have friends, but you may feel guilty always talkiing about the divorce, or they may not want to hear it all the time. Enter the certified divorce coach.
These professionals’ role is to help you find the right resources that fit your particular situation, especially since divorce is not a one-size-fits-all process. Their primary role is to dole out pre-legal advice, keep you organized, and offer nonjudgmental support. Divorce coaches are often on-board with you from beginning to end of the divorce proceedings.
The nitty-gritty: Costs vary by location, but the average cost for a divorce coach is approximately $100-$150/hour. Search online for a divorce coach in your area and ensure that he or she is certified.
Step 2: Manage your Finances
After age 50, the most important issue facing a separating couple is their finances. Bring on the financial planner. When dealing with a couple whose finances have been linked for a long time, it's often advisable to choose a certified financial divorce planner before the divorce proceedings. Aside from forecasting your financial future and ensuring security, a planner’s role is to help explain options and help set priorities and financial goals.
Although they are not there to give investment advice, depending on your situation, a financial planner will likely bring in other associated professionals such as wealth management experts, credit experts, tax experts etc. Having access to other experts can help insure that the financial road ahead will be clear.
The nitty-gritty: Be aware of terms like “fee-only” and “fee-based” and be aware of a commission structure (if any) upfront. Look for a financial advisor whose firm puts their client's interests ahead of their own and one that specializes in divorce. Search for them here >> www.fpanet.org and www.napfa.org.
Step 3: Choose an Attorney/ Mediator/ Collaborative Process
Next step? Finding the right kind of legal representation—and the divorce coach and financial planner will likely advise on what the best fit is for you—especially as each case is different.
Litigating Attorneys: If you do not have a high-conflict divorce, there is no reason to engage two divorce attorneys whose job it is to set up an adversarial situation in preparation for court. Unless you and your spouse are in just can't seem to sort out the financials, staying out of court should be your goal.
Mediation: A certified divorce mediator is a good alternative to a litigation attorney. A mediator is trained to set up an atmosphere where both of you can work on your divorce agreement together. This kind of mediation also allows the both of you to decide on how the agreement will be made. The benefit of mediation gives you the power to make your own decisions on your future life apart. In this process the agreement that you decide upon is reviewed by two separate revue attorneys to insure that you are each protected. Find a mediator at mediate.com.
Collaborative Family Law: Collaborative Family Law is a process of legal separation or divorce in which both parties and their collaborative family law lawyers pledge in writing to resolve all issues by agreement without the involvement of the court. The collaborative lawyers put together a team of neutral financial specialists and trained mental health professionals. The goal of this process is to assist the family in their emotional healing and help them to move forward into their new lives. Search online for a collaborative family lawyers your area and get more info here.
Francine Baras, LCSW, is the founder and co-director of Start Over Smart, Divorce Solutions and Starting Life Over.
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