Lana Li
Tuesday, February 16th, 2016    Posted by Lana Li (posts)

As the baby boomer generation see their children move out of the house and settle into their careers and family, some are now re-examining their marriages or long term relationships and considering what they want to do, and with whom, during their retirement years.  According to Statistics Canada (Marital Status Overview: 2011), there were a greater number of divorced and separated couples over the age of 65 in 2011 than in 2006.  A Times article in October 2014 provides that 1 in 4 divorces in the United States are experienced by those over the age of 50 and 1 in 10 divorces are experienced by those over the age of 65.  Given the aging population, it will not be surprising that these statistics are on the rise.

The social and financial impact of “grey” divorces, a phrase coined to refer to the demographic trend of rising divorce rates for older (grey-haired) couples in long term relationships, can be significant.  While the mortgage on the family home may well be paid off by then, the cost of maintaining two households, even if by modest standards, will likely be higher than for one household, coupled with reduced income in retirement years.  One party may require additional homemaker support, assisted living, or a care facility if there are significant health issues, including dementia or Alzheimer’s.  For some couples, there will be less time to rebuild assets given that one or both may be nearing the end of his or her working life.  The cost of health care coverage may be significant if one party loses coverage upon separation or divorce, previously available through the other spouse’s benefits plan.  Pension splitting will need to be considered.  Family businesses may need to be split up and tax considerations will need to be considered.  If there are prior marriages or relationships, competing interests of all of the children or prior spouses may need to be considered.  Life insurance and beneficiary designations must be re-examined.

From the courts’ perspective, it is unlikely that a court will “force” one party to work beyond his or her age of retirement, especially if there are health issues, but it will examine closely one party’s decision to retire early and the reasons for it. Where a party continues to work after the age of 65, a court may consider that he or she will not retire, absent any health or other reasons for not working and the court may require that party to pay, or continue to pay, spousal support based on that expected working income.  A court will only allow “double dipping” (paying spousal support to a spouse from that part of pension income that has already been equalized) in limited circumstances.[1]  Where one spouse’s needs due to dementia can be determined with some mathematical certainty, spousal support can be ordered and such spousal support can be binding upon the payor’s estate.[2]  In some circumstances, spousal support will be refused if the payor requires all of his or her income to pay for care facility costs, the marriage was short, and the division of assets would adequately compensate the other spouse.[3]   Thus, even if there is need of the other spouse, there might not be sufficient income available to pay after the payor’s needs are taken into account.

At the end of the day, those baby boomers who are facing divorce or dissolution of their relationship should obtain legal and financial advice to assist them in navigating these challenging issues.


[1] Boston v Boston, 2001 SCC 43

[2] S.(E.R.) v S(H.C.), 1998 CanLII 4619

[3] W.C.L. v A.J.L, 2003 BCSC 971

 

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Posted by Lana Li (posts) | Filed under Litigation and ADR |

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