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Family law perspectives on retirement and divorce

While the divorce rate has been consistently declining for many years here in Canada, this is not the case for the over-50 demographic. So-called "grey divorce" has become more prevalent in British Columbia and elsewhere as human life expectancy continues to rise and fewer people are satisfied staying in an unhappy marriage during their retirement years. Thankfully, family law practitioners have identified several ways for this beleaguered demographic to avoid divorce-related difficulties as they approach their golden years.

Evaluating income is a good place to start. Many people who have been married for a long time have accrued significant marital assets which they intend to rely upon during retirement. However, a divorce means that those assets will be divided, and that can leave one spouse -- often a woman -- at a financial disadvantage. Having a clear picture of both individual's finances can help to more effectively plan for the post-divorce lives of each party.

It may also be prudent to delay a split until certain financial milestones are met. While this is not possible in all divorce cases, waiting until retirement-age benefits begin to kick in can help both spouses be in a better financial position when approaching the divorce. This is particularly true for individuals who expected to be covered under a spouse's health benefits.

It is true that family law can be complicated, even more so for British Columbia residents facing a grey divorce. However, seeking the support of an experienced attorney to help navigate these waters can be a good first step toward an amicable split. Ideally, both parties can then move forward to enjoy their retirement years in relative security.

Source:, "Don't Let Divorce Sabotage Your Retirement Plans", Arielle O'Shea, Nov. 7, 2016

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