A Survival Guide for Midlife Divorce

Karen Sparks

By Karen Sparks | Oct 14th, 2018

When you and your spouse have built a life together for many years the impact of marital disruption can feel a lot like glass shattering and falling to the floor. The reality that you are older and plans have now shifted can cause your view of life to come to a screeching halt.

The unfortunate reality is that the Pew Research Center conducted a study in 2015 where the survey results indicated that the divorce rates in individuals over 50 have doubled in the past 25 years.

Therefore, the question is how to make the transition from a seemingly negative space to one where it is possible to create the life that you deserve.

Since there are numerous methods available to achieve this result, consider the following as a way to get started on a new pathway.

  1. Facing down fear in order to create opportunity

    The key to healing from and surviving a difficult life passage is to not allow it to influence power over you. When you find yourself feeling fearful and paralyzed this is an indication that someone and/or something has taken control of your thought process, purpose, and your strength.

    This lack of motivation can result in your staying locked in and potentially missing all of the new doors that are opening to expand what can become your new life experience. Instead of wondering if something should happen, make it happen by allowing yourself to receive the new connections, advice, career assistance, coaching, spiritual support, and fellowship etc. that is essential to positive personal rebirth.

  2. Reframing anger into strategic planning

    Anger is an emotion that may seem temporarily useful but in the long term is simply unproductive. Because midlife divorce presents many ramifications for health, wealth, stability and security, it is important to focus on building the right professional team who will carry out your objectives. In order to do this, take the time to analyze what type of divorce scenario you are anticipating–high conflict, mediation, collaborative, do it yourself etc. Do your homework and interview professionals with an eye to the type of expertise that you require and can afford. If you have access to enough of your marital financial data, it is prudent to set a projected budget for divorce costs because this will become a line item expense along with everything else.

    Consider the importance of the financial piece and if possible place a high priority on including a certified divorce financial analyst as a key ally. This is important as the allocation of investment accounts, retirement accounts, real and personal property, support etc. require careful attention to make sure that when you agree to receive the appropriate assets that they don’t carry negative unseen future liabilities.

    Gradually allowing yourself to move away from a platform connected to negative emotions provides the vision required for critical life planning options where you can thrive and grow in the way that suits your sensibilities and priorities.

  3. Rising up from rejection and claiming empowerment

    Feelings of rejection in divorce at midlife can cause your mind to travel in endless circles of questions regarding outward factors of personal appearance, inward factors of intellect and emotional response and spiritual factors of guilt and confusion.

    It might have been your experience during your marriage to allow yourself to be defined by third-party experiences and responsibilities of family, job or business, supporting roles for your spouse, volunteer committees etc.

    However, it is important now more than ever to consider stepping up and away from past patterns to gift yourself with a change in perspective for gain instead of loss.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  1. Engage your wealth management professionals and embark upon a process of understanding how your investment portfolio is being managed and what changes may need to be made to support your financial objectives.
  2. If you plan to retain the marital home, get a home inspection so that you are crystal clear on the repairs that will now be your responsibility.
  3. Review all of your insurance products with your agent or company. Make sure that coverages are adequate, deductibles are realistic and that you understand what could cause your premiums to shift upward.

  4. If you are covered under a spouse’s plan it is prudent to have complete health exams and tests done while you are still a part of the plan so that you can assess the current state of your well-being. This will also let you know the extent of coverage you should seek post-divorce when you are responsible for the health insurance premium payment for yourself.

  5. Confer with your tax preparation professional on the outlook for filing considerations going forward and put together a plan to manage tax ramifications.

  6. Consult your estate planning professional for preparation of new documents for wills, trusts, financial power of attorney, health care power of attorney, beneficiary designations, wealth protection etc.

  7. If finances permit, plan a getaway for yourself to restore and renew your mind.

Looking forward to a path of unchartered waters can seem unsettling. However, try to be encouraged to take that next step on the ladder and keep climbing to achieve the goal of reaching a more fulfilled version of you–older, wiser and ready for a new life adventure.

Karen Sparks

Karen Sparks

Karen D. Sparks, CDFA®, J.D. is the principal and owner of Divorce Financial Strategists™. She provides clients with focused divorce analysis and strategies for marital assets.


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