Gray divorce may be complicated by mental health issues
America’s largest generation is reaching old age. It has long been predicted that baby boomer retirement would dramatically affect the state of the American workforce. But other, less-anticipated problems are also emerging, including the increasing rates of “gray divorce” and high rates of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Although most stories about gray divorce involve spouses who are still mentally competent to make decisions on their own behalf, an increasing number of late-life divorce cases involve one spouse with dementia or other mental health issues. Needless to say, this complicates the divorce process considerably.
A recent case in Florida appears to be an example. It involves a couple who has been together for 22 years and the three adult children of the husband, who has been diagnosed with dementia. The couple is very wealthy, and ownership of about $10 million is at stake.
According to news sources, the wife wants to stay married. Although her motives cannot be proven one way or the other, she does stand to inherit the $10 million if the couple remains married until her husband passes away.
The man’s three adult children would likely lay claim to that $10 million if the couple gets divorced (again, their intentions cannot be proven one way or the other). One of the man’s sons was granted guardianship over him after attesting in court that the elderly man has dementia and is mentally incompetent. He claims that his step-mother is abusing his father.
Because there is so much money involved in the outcome of this case, it may be difficult to trust that either side has purely good intentions. Nonetheless, this case demonstrates just how difficult it can be when late-life divorce is complicated by mental health issues, inheritance matters and disputes with step-family.
Will legal battles like this become more common as baby boomers continue to age? Only time will tell.
Source: WHIO, “Can Florida man with dementia file for divorce?” Jane Musgrave, May 24, 2014