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For older adults, divorce affects health, social life, finances

Divorced people in California who are 50 and older may be a growing group, but they should be aware of the health problems that can be caused by the chronic stress that often accompanies divorce. Symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety and depression can worsen chronic health conditions including high blood pressure and diabetes, and people might also be more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as overeating and drinking too much. Healthy habits, such as exercising, may fall by the wayside.

Experts have identified several likely reasons for the rise of divorce among older people. One is that views about marriage have changed, and people are more likely to seek a divorce if they feel unfulfilled. People are also living longer, and women may have more economic freedom than in the past. Older people are more likely to be in second marriages, which have a higher divorce rate than first marriages.

Social isolation is another risk faced by older divorced adults. Men are more likely to become isolated than women, but women face a greater risk of financial struggles after divorce. Lower earnings and a greater likelihood of having taken time out to raise children means they often have less money saved for divorce and get fewer Social Security benefits.

Older couples are less likely to have minor children and child custody concerns, but property division and other financial matters may be important. A higher-earning spouse might pay support to the lower-earning spouse. Property division could be complex after years of marriage, and it is important for people to make sure they are aware of all the rules to avoid penalties and avoid or reduce taxes. For example, some retirement accounts need a court order called a qualified domestic relations order. There may be rules associated with taking distributions from a pension plan or from other assets, such as annuities.

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