More Seniors Divorcing because of Medical Expenses
Much has been written about the increase in gray divorce—divorce between spouses who are 50 years old or older. In fact, according to a study conducted by researchers at Bowling Green State University, the rate of gray divorce has doubled in the past twenty years. In 1990, only one in 10 divorces involved spouses who were over 50. In 2009, that number jumped to one in four divorces. There were over 600,000 gray divorces in 2009 and the Bowling Green study projected that number will be over 800,000 gray divorces in 2030.
There are many reasons why older people divorce. However, there is one surprising reason that appears to be emerging more frequently. It has nothing to do with infidelity, incompatibility or irreconcilable differences. Instead, many older couples are divorcing because of the high cost of medical care and long-term care costs.
As couples age, it is not uncommon for one spouse to become ill and require long-term care in a nursing home or other healthcare facility. However, Medicare only covers a portion of that care. Under current Medicare rules, if one spouse becomes ill, Medicare will only cover the first 100 days of nursing care. After that, a couple is left with only one of two options. If they are fortunate enough to be able to afford long-term health insurance, that insurance would then take over payments.
However, many retired couples cannot afford long-term health insurance so would then be forced to pay out-of-pocket for all nursing home expenses after the 100 days of Medicare benefits expired. It does not matter whose name the assets are under—even if they are only under ownership of the spouse who is well—those assets must still be used for the sick spouse’s care.
Once the couple has exhausted most of their assets, they will then qualify for Medicaid to cover the ill spouse’s long-term care. With the high cost of long-term care, typically in the thousands of dollars every month, it does not take long for a couple to be completely wiped out financially. For this reason, more and more financial advisors are suggesting that their clients consider divorce as a way of protecting their retirement funds. It is sometimes referred to as a “paper divorce” since other legal arrangements are made so that the spouses are still able to make decisions for the other when that spouse is no longer able to do so.
If you are struggling with the decision to place your spouse in a long-term care facility, and are worried about the financial consequences, contact an experienced Geneva family law attorney to discuss your options. Call today to schedule a consultation.