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Houston Family Law Attorneys > Resources > Sickness later in life may lead to divorce and financial complications

Sickness later in life may lead to divorce and financial complications

Divorce may be more likely when older spouses develop severe illnesses; sadly, these circumstances may also increase the financial burden of gray divorce.

Many spouses in Houston expect to spend their lives together, supporting each other through various trials. Unfortunately, research suggests that for some older spouses, the stress of living with a severe illness may be too much of a burden. According to one study, when older wives fall ill, spouses have a greater risk of divorcing. Sadly, these divorces often introduce various distinct financial concerns and challenges.

An elevated risk of divorce

The study used data that was collected over 18 years from married participants over the age of 51. According to The Washington Post, the researchers examined 2,701 marriages. They found that divorce risk increased 6 percent when wives developed one of four identified illnesses, which were cancer, lung disease, stroke or heart disease. Surprisingly, a similar risk of divorce wasn’t evident when husbands developed these illnesses.

This study does not shed light on the reasons that a wife’s severe illness may raise the risk of divorce. However, the researchers note that, since women typically become sick less frequently than men, husbands may be less accustomed to caregiving. Consequently, wives may be dissatisfied with the care they receive, while husbands may struggle with the physical and mental demands of caregiving.

Regardless of why these divorces occur, they can introduce unique issues. It’s crucial for spouses to reach a reasonable settlement, considering the serious financial consequences that late-life divorces can already have.

Financial issues in gray divorce

Even when spouses are not facing medical expenses associated with a serious illness, divorce after age 50, or “gray divorce,” can be financially harmful. The New York Times describes the following issues or complications that often arise during gray divorce:

  • Spouses have limited working years left to earn money and make up for their financial losses. Recovering financially after divorce may be especially difficult for spouses facing severe illnesses.

  • Spouses must divide complicated retirement assets, such as pension plans. It may be difficult for spouses to ensure that none of these marital retirement assets are overlooked or incorrectly valued.

  • Complex retirement assets are often among the most valuable assets that older spouses possess. This means that an uneven division can have huge financial consequences.

  • Emotions such as anxiety and depression can prevent spouses from fully focusing on their finances while preparing for divorce. This may especially be true for spouses who are also dealing with serious health conditions.

Alarmingly, The Chicago Tribune reports that spouses who divorce after age 62 are substantially likelier to live in poverty than their married peers. Just 4 percent of married couples in this age group live at the poverty line. Troublingly, 14 percent of men and 30 percent of women who navigate divorces at this age qualify as impoverished. It’s crucial for divorcing spouses to keep this risk in mind while navigating divorce proceedings.

Reaching reasonable settlements

In Texas, state law presumes that community property, which is most property acquired during marriage, belongs equally to both spouses. However, an equitable distribution, which is not necessarily an even division, may be ordered if a judge deems this division fair based on each spouse’s circumstances. Additionally, alimony may be available to financially disadvantaged spouses who can’t adequately support themselves after divorce.

The way that spouses present their situations and need during divorce proceedings may have a significant impact on these aspects of the settlement. Considering this, spouses may benefit from working with a family law attorney to prepare for the divorce and navigate the legal proceedings.

Keywords: divorce, gray divorce, retirement, assets, property

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