Divorce Advice for Older Couples: Mistakes to Avoid When Divorcing Over 50

couple holding a broken heart - gray divorce concept

A divorce after the age of 50 can result in emotional and financial blows that make what should be rewarding years more financially stressful and unhappier. As the rate of so-called gray divorce explodes – the Pew Research Center says the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s for American adults ages 50 and older – we’re seeing older adults who think they’re ready to grab ahold of a new lifestyle fail to prepare.

Divorce after age 50 can lead to financial insecurity because older divorcees have less time to recover financially and rebuild retirement savings. They also are less likely to be working and have a steady income. Older men and women who divorce can find themselves isolated, leading to emotional and psychological issues as they age.

At Charles R. Ullman & Associates, our divorce attorneys bring compassion and a dedication to protecting our clients’ rights and interests as they make positive transitions. Contact our family law attorneys online or at (919) 829-1006 for help making sound decisions and avoiding the common divorce mistakes made by those 50 and older.

Financial Mistakes in Divorce After Age 50

A primary issue that anyone heading for divorce should think about is protecting their assets. That includes money and property that someone in their 50s or 60s has spent a lifetime accumulating.

Don’t make these common divorce mistakes:

1. Underestimating expenses.

Things get tighter quickly when you suddenly have to make do on one income after years of living on two. If you have left a marriage in which one spouse was primarily responsible for paying the bills, you may not be familiar with your family finances or how much money comes in and goes out each month. Even if you pay the bills, you should make sure you understand the total financial picture before you move forward with a divorce.

The best way to prepare for your financial needs post-divorce is to make an inventory of all your assets and debts. Marital assets should be equitably divided between you and your spouse in the divorce. You should get a full credit report for both you and your spouse, so you’re sure who owes what. Don’t overlook health insurance. If you’re covered through your spouse’s employer and not yet eligible for Medicare (age 65), you’re looking at a significant expense for health insurance, even with COBRA continuation coverage.

2. Thinking taxes will work themselves out.

We regularly get puzzled looks from divorce clients when we say, “Let’s talk about tax strategies.” As suggested elsewhere, just about every financial decision you make during a divorce has tax consequences. For example, certain alimony or separate maintenance payments are deductible by the payer spouse and must be reported as income by the recipient spouse. As you look at the division of assets, keep in mind that the “spendable” value of your retirement account could be about 65% of what the statement says after taxes. Therefore, the actual value of a pre-tax retirement account may not truly be equal to another asset that has the same value on paper. You’ll want to talk to your divorce attorney and financial advisor about dividing retirement funds, which can incur costly tax penalties if done wrong.

3. Holding onto the house.

Judge gavel and house key

Many women who are going through a divorce are emotionally attached to the idea of staying in their homes, says the Beyond Wealth financial advice blog. But keeping the family house is not always your best option. It goes back to the first mistake – underestimating expenses. In addition to the mortgage and taxes, there is upkeep and replacement to consider, especially in a family home that has seen a decade or two of living. Selling the house and splitting the proceeds or taking other assets in the settlement may provide a better financial and personal benefit in the long term.

Emotional Mistakes in Divorce After Age 50

It’s not just financial matters in a divorce that require a certain amount of detachment. You need to take a step back and make sure you are looking at yourself realistically as you get ready to change so much about your life.

Don’t make psychologically charged mistakes in your divorce, such as the following:

1. Acting out of anger or hurt.

The dissolution of a marriage is hurtful. It gives each spouse a reason to be angry, even if only at themselves. As another advisor says, divorce requires very personal and serious decisions that will affect your future and your children’s futures. You cannot let the anger or pain of the moment blur your judgment.

Make sure you are ready to accept and adapt to the change in lifestyle, change in social status, and change in how you spend time with your children that comes with divorce. Spend the necessary time with friends, family, and therapists to work through your emotions so you’ll be ready to talk business when you step into your attorney’s office.

2. Becoming a ghost.

Don’t isolate yourself as you go through a divorce. Reach out to friends who will support you in positive ways, not with negativity. Find the keepers – the nonjudgmental listener and that one action-oriented pal who will encourage you to set some goals, try new things and take the necessary steps needed to get through this.

3. Not assembling a team.

In addition to supportive friends, get your professional team together to take on your divorce. As you prepare for a divorce, you should book at least one review session with a financial advisor or an accountant. Your lawyer or your bank should be able to recommend one. In addition to your divorce attorney, you may want to turn to a third-party mediator to help draft your separation agreement. There are also mental health professionals who are specifically trained to help people as they go through a divorce. A qualified therapist can help you work through any issues that are holding you back from achieving your emotional divorce. Don’t go it alone.

Contact an Experienced Raleigh, NC, Divorce Lawyer

Charles R. Ullman & Associates is a Raleigh, N.C., law firm that focuses solely on family law. Attorney Charles Ullman is recognized as a board-certified Specialist in North Carolina family law, a certification that requires extensive experience, additional education, and passing a written examination. As we guide clients through separation and divorce, our legal team focuses on fairness and understanding. Phone (919) 829-1006 or contact us online today to set up a confidential initial consultation.


Charles Ullman & Associates provides you respected, experienced and knowledgeable divorce and family law attorneys. You can trust us to help you through the legal process efficiently and effectively so you can transition to the next phase of your life. Our community involvement reaches beyond charitable support of important causes. We launched our own movement in Fraternities4Family and provide scholarships to able students in need.