Statistics Canada hasn’t measured national marriage and divorce rates since 2008. Still, the most recent administrative data shows a decline in the annual divorce rate between 2009 and 2016. According to the Vanier Institute, the annual divorce rate of about 10 divorces per 1,000 married women in the early 2000s declined starting in 2006. It reached 6 divorces per 1,000 married women in 2016.1
Divorce is becoming more common at older ages, researchers found
In the early 1990s, most divorces in Canada were granted to people in their 20s and 30s. Close to 51 per cent of all divorces were granted to women age 20-39, 42% among the 40-59 age group and only 7% to those 60 and up.2 Over the last 20 years, it’s become more common for divorces to occur later in life. In 2016, only 28% of divorces were granted to women aged 20-39. About 57% of divorces were to women in the 40-59 age group and 15% were to those 60 and above.3 Divorce among adults in their 20s and 30s has fallen by 30% in the last decade. While divorce rates among older people has increased slightly in Canada throughout the 1990s and 2000s, it’s not as significant as the grey divorce phenomenon in the U.S.4
So, what’s happening with divorce rates?
Some experts point to research showing fewer people getting married. And those that do tie the knot tend to be from groups with lower divorce rates, those that are highly educated with lots of resources.5 Among older Canadians, looking ahead to the next chapter may seem daunting if in an unhappy relationship. Longer lifespans or increased financial independence could be reasons some couples divorce later in life.
No matter the cause, it pays to take a pragmatic look at your financial situation when looking at a separation. Those impacted by grey divorce have to consider both the assets they will end up with and the income they will have to sustain them through retirement. This is very different from younger people going through a divorce who have many income-earning years ahead of them.
4 tips for making it through late-life divorce
- Keep your emotions in check. Ending a marriage with discipline and a certain amount of objectivity is important for keeping your finances in order. Unwinding a life of 20, 30 or 40 years together is emotional and takes time and patience. Try to frame things logically and engage the help of trusted experts like lawyers or advisors who can help you approach the situation in a practical way. Focus on the outcomes for each person rather than trying to “win at all costs.” An emotional reaction of trying to win can cause hardship for the family involved and increase the legal costs associated with your divorce.
- Understand your current financial picture. Ensure you know where you stand financially with all income, debts, assets and liabilities. When dividing family assets, consider the income you each require for the rest of your lives. Remember there will be a lifestyle adjustment as you transition to life on your own. You may need to make sacrifices such as taking fewer vacations or downsizing your home.
- Revisit your estate plan. Change the designated beneficiaries on assets such as your RRSP, pension plan or insurance contracts. This is something that can be overlooked, resulting in assets going to an ex-spouse unintentionally. Revise your will and power of attorney documents as soon as possible.
- Be cautious on your next chapter. Be wary of jumping in to a new relationship too quickly. Ensure you have given yourself time and space. Ensure that before you do pursue a new committed relationship, your own financial needs and assets are protected.
Work with an advisor
Sitting down with a trusted advisor can help you process this significant change in your life. An advisor can help you make a list of “to dos” to get on track and can help you create a financial plan that reflects your new situation.
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1,2,3,4 – Battams, N. “In Conversation: Rachel Margolis on Divorce Trends in Canada.” (February 10, 2020). The Vanier Institute of the Family.
5 – Phillip N. Cohen, “The Coming Divorce Decline,” Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World. (August 28, 2019).