late-life divorce

5 ways to protect yourself during a late-life divorce

It may not occur to you that you need to protect yourself when going through a late-life divorce. The process of divorce can be brutal and it comes at a time when your emotions are all over the place, making you very vulnerable. You may expect to be treated fairly because of all the years you spent together but you cannot count on this. In some cases, your partner will want what’s best for you. In others, he or she may act more like a distant stranger or adversary than a former partner and you have to be prepared for this.

1. Educate yourself financially

If you are going through a late-life divorce, the financial implications are complex. It usually means having to divide up assets that have been accumulated over many years. You have limited years left in which you can still earn money and so those assets are all important.  If you have left financial affairs in the hands of your spouse during your marriage, you will need to go through a quick learning curve. You cannot afford to be clueless about your finances or you may just end up agreeing to a settlement that impacts you negatively for years to come.

2. Do what you can to avoid a protracted legal battle

Despite the fact that it was my ex who wanted the divorce, I realized that he was expecting me to initiate the process.  I didn’t see any point in delaying once the decision had been made, although neither of us had money for attorneys at this stage. What made it easier was that it was a no-contest divorce. I think my ex felt too guilty to contest what I proposed – and this meant that there was no protracted legal battle.

A protracted battle over assets should be avoided if at all possible. When you are already dealing with all the emotional fallout of the divorce, facing ongoing litigation just adds stress to the situation. When I worked for lawyers, I used to see just how much couples ended up paying on legal fees when their issues dragged out over years. Sometimes I had to resist the urge to shout at them and tell them that nobody was winning in the situation except my bosses.

In a late-life divorce, assets with sentimental rather than actual financial value have also been accumulated over the years.  Much time and money can be spent arguing over such items. They are just things and although it may be hard to let go of them, it’s better to do it if it is holding up the divorce process.

Perhaps you don’t realize it but every time you pick up the phone or email your attorney, your legal costs are steadily rising.  Your attorney’s time is valuable and you certainly don’t need to tell him or her all about your latest emotional drama.

3. Consider Mediation

Mediation can be extremely valuable when disagreements occur. A couple I know with many assets used a mediator when they could not agree over how they were to be divided.  She managed to help them reach a suitable compromise. This mediation process prevented them from going through a lengthy litigation process.

4. Don’t make rash decisions

You cannot afford to make rash decisions, just because you want the process to be over. You shouldn’t allow yourself to feel pressurized in any way or agree to something just to keep the peace.  You can’t afford to allow your emotions to get in the way because you need to be strong and to push back if you feel your interests are being threatened.

When speaking to your attorney you must convey the details of your situation as clearly and concisely as possible. This will help him or her to give you sound advice. It helps to make some notes ahead of time.  Don’t allow all the legal terminology to intimidate you and make sure that you understand what is said by asking as many questions as necessary. Your decisions at this time will have consequences for the rest of your life. If you feel you are not emotionally able to make the right decisions, you will have to rely on those you trust to help you to make them.

5. Don’t keep calling your ex

The person who was always there for you isn’t ‘your person’ anymore.  You can’t just pick up the phone and call him or her anymore.  It’s too easy to become emotional and you have no record of what’s been said. You have to have some clear boundaries when speaking to your ex and you have to be firm.

It’s hard to realize that you have to learn to rely completely on yourself when you may not have done so for many years. This does get easier as you go along and your confidence grows. In fact, it can do you good to move out of your comfort zones. The more obstacles you conquer, the more confidence you will gain. You may just find out that you are far stronger than you ever thought possible.

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