Mediating Conflict,
Embracing Peace

Planning for divorce as an older person: work with experienced counsel

A heartfelt apology, as everyone knows, can go a long way toward resolving a dispute. This is certainly true in relationships with friends and family, and it also seems to be true in patient-provider relations. That, at least, is the experience of hospitals that have introduced enhanced communication and resolution programs which encourage physicians to have a heart-to-heart discussion with patients who have suffered a bad outcome.

The idea is a fairly simple one: when physicians take the time to connect with a patient, express sympathy and offer an apology when something has gone wrong, the patient is less likely to be left with hard feelings which ripen into medical malpractice litigation. A number of states, noting the benefit, have passed laws which prevent physician apologies from being used as evidence against them in medical malpractice litigation.

In addition to the costs of divorce itself, there are a number of financial challenges older people may face due to divorce. These include:

  • Higher taxes when filing single
  • Splitting up retirement savings
  • Increased costs for housing and other monthly expenses
  • Long-term care for those who have no spouse to care for them
  • Loss of health insurance and gaps in coverage for those who were covered by a spouse’s insurance

Another important area where older people can be impacted by divorce is with Social Security income. Couples who divorce before they hit their 10th anniversary are not able to receive income based on one another’s record. Couples who have been married for at least 10 years, by contrast, have this benefit. For the financially weaker party in the marriage, this can sometimes be a factor in the timing of a divorce filing.

Addressing these and other financial risks is imperative for older people considering divorce. Thorough divorce preparation and careful negotiation can go a long way toward protecting one from financial vulnerability after divorce.