Monday, July 12, 2010

"Divorce After 50" offers advice, hope for those facing change

"He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house." - Zsa Zsa Gabor, actor

BY JULIA ANDERSON
Divorce at any time in your life is stressful, sad and financially difficult but the stakes are even higher in a divorce after age 50, especially for women. There's less time to make up for divided assets, less time to save for retirement, less time to find your financial footing on your own with a mortgage, a full-time job (or not), kids who may need financial support, health care issues and your own need to recover emotionally from the breakup.
Nolo, a California-based publisher of law books, legal forms and software since 1971, has released its latest book, "Divorce After 50: Your Guide to the Unique Legal & Financial Challenges." (Nolo $19.95)
Written by attorney Janice Green, "Divorce After 50" is not a substitute for personalized advice from a lawyer, but covers all aspects of the process from taking the steps to a fair division of property to how to divide "big ticket" assets such as houses, cars, a family business and retirement funds. There's a chapter on estate planning and another chapter on "Your Financial Survival" covering topics such as budgeting, exploring potential income streams and bringing new ideas to your financial life.
As someone who divorced at age 60 (not 50), I found this book to be comprehensive, easy to access and extremely helpful for both its legal information as well as the emotion support it offers during a time of crisis. In addition, there are segments that deal with issues unique to those near or at retirement age regarding Social Security and Medicare.
Writer Green notes that the legal world is seeing more later in life divorces and reflects on the "why" of these breakups in her opening chapter. Our longer life spans seems to have something to do with it as the average American life expectancy is now 79, up from 47 in 1900.  "Aging can play a significant role in a decision to divorce later in life," Green said. "Along with the reality that we are all living longer, our "can do" culture offers incentives to tackle challenges at any age. An emphasis on individual fulfillment sometimes seems to encourage the idea that we can achieve happiness at any age if only we follow our hearts, even if it means switching partners after many years."
In my case, I had to accept that reality that my marriage was over,  find a good divorce attorney, negotiate the best agreement that I could and then move forward with life: As one of my friends said, "break new trail." That's what I've done.That's what Green encourages others to do. In interviews with mature divorcing clients, they told her that they "were thinking about divorce in relation to their health, their retirement security and their adult children's response to the news."
In Chapter 13, Green shares "Survival Stories" of those who have passed through the crucible of divorce and emerged to find life on the other side. Her "survivors" told her that their divorces had given them a new sense of self, a new lease on life, freedom. As one survivor said, "There was no salvation in my divorce any more than was in my marriage. But in my divorce, there was deliverance."
Another said, "I've been on a personal growth journey ever since and enjoying every day of my life."
Green's book, "Divorce After 50" emphasizes that every case is different: "but if you become educated and informed, it will prepare you to negotiate an equitable settlement." That's the value of this book with its clearly labeled chapters on getting guidance and finding a divorce lawyer, a fair division of assets, budgeting as a single-person, taxes and retirement accounts and health care coverage options. Anyone divorcing after 50 would benefit from this book.
Key points:
- Age does not protect you from divorce. Neither does a long-term marriage, she said.
- Divorce later in life has the potential to be a creative turning point.
- Bitterness is not your friend during or after a divorce. Work through the bitterness or they will make your inner life more difficult and painful for a longer time.
- The grief process over the loss of a marriage must run its course.
- It is the 50-65 age bracket that creates a dangerous insurance gap for many people.
- Money and emotion collide during a divorce (just as they often do during a marriage).
- Don't stay in the dark about your expenses. Be honest with yourself about where your money goes.
- The sooner those divorcing unlock their (financial) fear and move through it, the better. To help with that step, make three lists: 100 things I Want to Have, 100 Things I Want to Do and 100 Things I Want to Be. These exercises will help you learn more about yourself and what's really important, says Green.
RESOURCES:
- To find a divorce attorney, go to http://www.lawyers.nolo.com./
- To buy "Divorce After 50" go to http://www.nolo.com/ then search for the book title in quotes or click here.
- Amazon.com readers give this book five stars. It is downloadable to a Kindle.
- On "gray divorce" (think Al and Tipper Gore)  by Jane Glenn Haas in the Orange County Register, click here.

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