NEW YORK (MainStreet) – The overall divorce rate in the U.S. may be dropping, but according to a study conducted by Bowling Green University, the divorce rate for those 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades.
Pat, a 54-year-old Minneapolis, Minn. resident, knows first-hand about empty nester divorce.
“Our two children had left home and we both just started going our own ways,” says Pat. “I think the empty nest triggered it. I was thinking that our marriage was over, but she finally said it aloud.”
For Pat, who was the higher wage earner, there were a lot of questions about the house, retirement plan and taxes.
What wasn’t in question was the first step in resolving those issues. Minnesota requires mediation before a judge will grant a divorce, a move Pat and his now ex-wife thought a good idea anyway.
The process took several months and even with mediation and an amicable split, there are some things Pat says could have been even better defined.
MainStreet talked to some experts and came up with the Top 10 things to be aware of when going through an “empty nest divorce”:
1. Kids. Custody may not be an issue at this stage, but even if the children are of age, in college or even grown up and with their own families, experts say the kids should remain a major consideration during a divorce. Nancy Fagan, a divorce mediator in San Diego, Calif., says the more you plan and detail visitation with grandkids, holidays and birthdays, the less opportunity there is for conflict later.
She suggests discussing the answers to a few questions: “What kind of relationship will you have with your kids and grandkids and how will that meet your former partner’s needs? If there are trips to see grandkids, you may have both paid when you were together, but who pays now?,” Fagan says.
Pat, the divorced father in Minneapolis says that although holidays and birthdays have gone fine up to this point, he wishes those issues would have been discussed in more detail during his process.
2. Family finances. You and your partner may have split the difference on college educations and family vacations and gifts, or those items may have come from a joint household budget. Who pays now that you aren’t together? “You have to ask yourself how much you plan on giving the kids and grandkids for holidays and birthdays and how that will be split,” says Fagan.