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Gabrielle Hartley
August 22, 2020

Midlife Divorce 101

According to the AARP divorce in midlife is initiated by women ⅔ of the time.

Divorce can fill you with feelings of shame and loneliness at any stage of life. Create boundaries around relationships that are bringing you down.

Divorce at any age is likely to leave you feeling emotionally and/or financially insecure, but divorce in midlife can feel downright scary. Do I have enough for retirement? Am I too old to find love again? WIll I die alone? These are real fears, and as a divorce lawyer, mediator, strategy coach, and author for more than twentyfive years, I have seen it all. Divorce strategy is about balancing emotion, money and wellness at every phase of life.

I’m not going to pretend it’s easy, easy, but with care, you can move through and beyond your divorce in midlife and come out on the other side in a much better place. I promise; I see it all the time. Here I’ve gathered twelve top tips to guide you through:

  1. Get your finances organized. Before taking any steps toward getting divorced, be certain to gather as much financial information as you can from your partner.  Make a list of all your assets and debts, joint and separate. Don’t forget retirement accounts, cars, jewelry; be thorough. Once lawyers get involved things have a way of getting more complicated and expensive.
  2. Financial concerns in grey divorce can be more burdensome.   Be sure that you understand how your assets and debts will be divided.  Unlike a divorce that happens earlier in life, with divorce in midlife, you may have little time to make up for thin savings. Create a realistic budget for what you think you’ll need going forward. This is not the time to bury your head in the sand about your financial reality!
  3. Consider health insurance. If you have been on your spouse’s health insurance and you are a stay-at-home or freelance worker for most of your marriage, getting health insurance may be difficult.  Be sure to figure this out before you sign on the dotted line.
  4. Consult with a lawyer before filing. A single consultation with an attorney is worth its weight in gold.  There may be things you have not considered financially or practically.  Talk it through with trusted experts before making a leap.
  5. Gather your trusted people, and be open to new ones. When you are in mid-life and divorcing, some of your life-long friendships may feel vulnerable.  Be open to new supportive relationships while other important people in your life adjust to your new divorced status. Join support groups, reach out in your favorite online community!
  6. Avoid litigation if at all possible! Do your best to keep out of court.  There are two important things to remember about court.  First , the judge, or “stranger in black robes” will never know you the way you know each other.  Second, what you think is important may have no relevance in court.
  7. Consider your legacy planning. In addition to attending to your present financial wellness, your divorce is the perfect time to re-assess your family’s economic future. In most cases, your divorce triggers the need for new estate planning documents such as wills and trusts as well as updating beneficiaries.
  8. Keep your kids out of it.  Even if your children are fully grown adults, their parents’ divorce can be upsetting and cause them to call many things into question. Do your best to confide in others rather than involving your children in your divorce process.
  9. Give yourself permission to go to court if necessary. If you find yourself in court due to an unreasonable spouse, give yourself permission to be wholly grounded in the process, always showing up as your best self.
  10. Treat yourself to what you love. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make yourself feel good.  Organize your house, buy yourself one special item.  Cleansing and caring for yourself and your environment can do wonders for your mental state.
  11. Elevate your self-respect. Divorce can fill you with feelings of shame and loneliness at any stage of life.  Create boundaries around relationships that are bringing you down. Engage more with people, activities, and circumstances that make you feel your best.
  12. Don’t demonize your ex. Tearing down your ex will not serve you positively. If you have shared friends or children, it’s likely you will continue to interact with each other for years to come.  Do your best to keep your relationship failures in balance.
  13. Get your sexy on. Loving yourself is step one.  Treat yourself to something special.  No matter what your style, getting dressed nicely is sure to give a confidence boost. Taking care of your self-image will do wonders for your overall wellness (and sex-life!)

According to the AARP divorce in midlife is initiated by women ⅔ of the time. Even so, it’s still one of the most painful experiences in life. Take your time to heal.  The grieving process cannot be skipped.  Do something beneficial for yourself each and every day to move yourself forward both through your emotional process as well as through the rigors of the separation process.

Divorcing is not easy at any phase of life.  The key takeaway is that while divorce is never easy, when necessary, it can be a great way to re-calibrate at any phase of life.  And there are some advantages to divorce in midlife.  For instance, you may not have to deal with custody and it’s likely that you’re more financially stable. The freedom that comes with having no children at home and no spouse making you crazy can actually be pretty fabulous once you get to the other side.  Remember that you have all the power in the world to believe in yourself, to feel better, and to bring your best self forward through and beyond your divorce.

Gabrielle Hartley is a nationally recognized divorce attorney, online mediator, and divorce strategy coach.  She trains divorce professionals to bring the highest level of conflict resolution into their practice.  She is a highly respected negotiator, author and an engaging, dynamic speaker
Gabrielle is known for her unique, non-toxic approach to divorce that she has developed over twenty-five years. She keeps 99% of her cases out of the courtroom and at the negotiating table, as she effectively supports her clients to create a healthy, uplifted post-divorce life for them.

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