'Grey divorces' present unique challenges

By Staff

'Grey divorces' raise unique issues for counsel compared with those involving younger couples, Markham family law lawyer Andrew Feldstein tells

According to a National Post story, researchers around the world have detected a recent sharp spike in divorce rates among baby boomers.

While the newspaper says that a lack of recent data makes the trend harder to track in this country, a Statistics Canada report shows that the median age for divorce rose steadily between 1991 and 2008. For men, the average age jumped from 38.3 years at the start of the period to 44 years, while women’s ages leapt from 35.7 to 41 years.

And Feldstein, principal of the Feldstein Family Law Group, says his own anecdotal experience lends weight to the idea that the trend continues to develop.

“We are seeing more people at an advanced age deciding that they are not happy and want to split,” says Feldstein, who puts the phenomenon partly down to parents having children at a later age compared with previous generations.

“More people are experiencing an empty nest when they are older, which seems to be a common trigger for separation. When the children are gone, the parties feel as though they don’t know each other anymore,” he says.

In certain respects, Feldstein says the unique nature of divorces and separations involving older couples can make them more straightforward.

“These cases come in a range,” he says. “Typically, at one end, the children are adults, so there is no dispute over child support or custody, which makes things a bit easier.”

However, at the other end of the spectrum, Feldstein says older participants often come with higher incomes, and have more accumulated assets to fight over.

“As you move up the scale, you get into situations where it could be a second marriage for one or both parties,” he continues.

Individuals entering their second or third divorce could find themselves being squeezed by having to pay for more than one ex-spouse, Feldstein says. But financial issues may not be their only concern, he adds.

“Often, you will have children from a previous marriage who may want to get involved because they are worried about the consequences of a divorce from someone who is not their parent, which complicates matters,” Feldstein says. “The other thing that comes up with grey divorces is the ability to get instructions, and the timeliness of responses, from clients, which can be a challenging experience depending on their age and health.”

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