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Divorce in golden years raises issues for children of ex-spouses

Caring for aging parents eventually becomes a concern for most people. If your parents are still married, you may need to determine whether they have enough retirement funds to maintain their standard of living and cover any extra expenses that come up, especially the almost inevitably increasing costs of their health care. If your parents are divorced, you have even more to be concerned about because you'll need to ensure they're properly cared for separately.

The issue of caring for divorced parents as they become elderly is a growing one, particularly as baby boomers edge up into their 60s. Given that approximately 1 out of every 3 people of this generation is divorced or otherwise unmarried, their children will have to start thinking more about how they will determine and balance their individual parents' separate needs.

While some of the United States' 79 million baby boomers are wealthy, a study published earlier this year found that many more are struggling financially, especially as they grow older. Unmarried people of this generation are more likely to be reliant on public assistance, as well as disabled. Those numbers tend not to go down for any generation as they reach their 80s and 90s.

Compounding the issue is the fact that divorced parents often remarry, which means that you may not only have parents living separately to care for, but their new spouses as well. This dynamic can both help and hurt matters, depending on whether your stepparents have children. Yes, there may be more people to help shoulder the financial costs of supporting parents. But that also means you may have to weigh major decisions about your parents and their spouses with stepsiblings who have conflicting ideas. What if, for example, you want to set up in-home care for your mother and her husband, but your stepsister wants your shared parents to spend their later years in a nursing home?

Extended-family meetings are one of the best ways to head off arguments and make sure everyone is on the same page. The sooner you can reach a consensus on managing the financial and personal aspects of your parents' care, the easier things will be when they can no longer care for themselves.

Source: Reuters, "Double the trouble when divorced parents get old," Chris Taylor, Oct. 19, 2012

· Our firm handles divorce and many other family law matters. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Dallas divorce page.

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