E1: Divorcing in later life

In this new series of Baby Boomers Guide, Money Extra is your short sharp user friendly guide to financial information in these uncertain times.

You might be surprised to know that the fastest growing group of divorcees is people over fifty. Couples who have been married for more than twenty years make up a quarter of all divorce petitions.

An increasing number of people are choosing to divorce at older ages, and this can have significant financial implications.

Experienced family lawyer Alice Mantel, author of Everywoman’s Guide to Retirement, offers some vital advice for older people choosing divorce.

Divorce for people over 50 can take a substantial financial toll on women even in an amicable split. Couples aged over 55 have usually built up a lifetime of shared assets which can make for complicated financial settlements. People are living longer so arrangements need to take this into account as post-divorce life can last for several decades.

Alice Mantel finds women are initiating divorce more often for a range of reasons including a desire for freedom and independence after a lifetime of caring. They are better off financially due to employment and superannuation. However, because of broken work histories due to caring responsibilities, low super and lower incomes, women can often be financially disadvantaged by divorce.

She advises that following divorce, all joint accounts must be closed, and financial and legal arrangements must be set up in your own name, including bank accounts, insurances, Services Australia, Centrelink and charitable donations. Your will needs changing as well as the power of attorney and guardianship instructions.

Some couples decide to stay together ‘on paper’ in the family home to avoid financial disadvantage but live more separate lives.

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