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For older couples, do health problems signal divorce?

Historically, women tend to take on the role and responsibilities of caregivers. While some may argue that, by nature, women tend to be more nurturing; there are plenty of men who are stay-at-home dads and who also provide care for ailing loved ones. What happens, however, when it's a spouse who is in need of care?

Traditional wedding vows include the phrase, "in sickness and in health," however; a recent study indicates that, for some older married men, keeping this vow may be more difficult. For the study, researchers from Iowa State University surveyed more than 2,700 married couples. The study was conducted over the course of several years and all participants were age 50 and older.

By the year 2029, the U.S. Census Department estimates that more than one-fifth of the U.S. population will be age 65 and older. Aging is often accompanied by more health concerns and problems including the development of major conditions like heart disease and cancer. Researchers conducting the study wanted to find out what, if any, impact health problems have on divorce rates.

Findings indicate that, for women, the ailing health of a husband has no impact on divorce rates. However, when the tables were turned and a wife falls ill, the likelihood of a couple divorcing increased by six percent. For some married women, the results of this study may be cause for concern. However, the findings did not indicate whether a wife's health was a factor in a divorce or which spouse filed for divorce.

Among younger married couples, 75 percent of divorce filings are initiated by women. Likewise, studies show that overall women tend to be less satisfied with their husbands' ability to provide care. Regardless of which spouse is initiating a divorce, the results of this study illustrate some of the unique challenges individuals who divorce later in life face.

Individuals who are age 50 and older who plan to divorce would be wise to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney who has experience in handling the division of retirement assets and other financial matters of particular concern for those nearing or in retirement.

Source: Huffington Post, "Couples Over 50 Are More Likely To Divorce When The Wife Gets Sick, Study Suggests," Rebecca Adams, March 5, 2015

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