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Why do so many older divorced women end up in poverty?

Divorce can often be more of a financial hardship for women of any age than for men. However, for women who are baby boomers and older going through what's known as "grey divorce," the financial consequences can be shattering.

Many of these women haven't been in the workplace, at least on a full-time basis, for some time. Some might already be retired. Not to mention, those who are working often earn less money than their male colleagues.

However, because they live longer than men on average, the money they have must last them longer. In fact the percentage of elderly divorced women living in poverty is twice that for divorced men their age.

One Ontario certified financial planner cautions, "Your partner should not be your retirement plan." She offers some advice to help women keep from falling into dire financial straits after a divorce:

  • Understand your family's finances. That way, there are fewer surprises if you lose your spouse, whether through divorce or death. - If you're getting a divorce, seek the advice of a certified financial planner who can help you make smart financial decisions and work out a budget.
  • Make sure that you're receiving every government benefit to which you're entitled. Unfortunately, spousal support doesn't qualify as income when it comes to calculating Canada Pension Plan payments. So far, the new Trudeau government doesn't seem poised to make any changes to the CPP beyond a promise to study it further.
  • If you decide to remarry or to live with another partner, get a marriage or cohabitation agreement to protect your assets should that relationship end.

Of course, spousal support can help a woman get on her feet financially after a divorce. However, judges look at a number of factors when determining whether a spouse is entitled to support and, if so, how much and for how long. The idea behind spousal support in Canada is that, if possible, the person receiving the support should eventually become self-supporting.

Ontario lawyers experienced in family law can work to help you get a fair divorce settlement and spousal support payments that will let you start the next phase of your life without serious financial worries.

Source: The Globe and Mail, "‘Grey divorces’ particularly brutal for women's finances," Mary Gooderham, accessed Dec. 24, 2015

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