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We have always known that all marriages can be broken, but knowing it, we knew it when Mercedes and Antonio, that unbreakable duo of the series 'Cuéntame', ended up 'splitting pears' in a law office. Even the Alcantaras divorced! That was the no more. A lifetime together, with hair full of gray hair (or Farmatint, failing that) and it turned out that they spent love. The viewers assumed that this was just 'a break', as Ross said in 'Friends', something that was later confirmed. They returned, much to the general relief of their fans.
The ruptures in that vital latitude have come to be called gray divorce, in allusion to those that are executed at 50, 60, 70 and even 80 years. Compared to the younger years, at this stage you are more likely not to have a threatening mortgage, small children to raise, or a very absorbing job. Moreover, many will have already reached retirement age.
If we add to this cocktail of circumstances the empowerment of women, with the #metoo and the feminist resurgence, and that life expectancy in Spain exceeds 83 years, according to the INE, the result is that divorce at 65, say, is not nonsense or an action 'out of party'. The match is advanced, correct, but certainly not finished. And 'bonus track': the projections that the same statistical agency makes for 2035 are promising: we will live about two more years.
The calculation of ruptures at late ages, after a long cohabitation, are on the rise: in 2021, 27.6% of divorces happened in people over 50 years of age. In 2013, however, that figure was 17%, ten points less.
Freedom even in the supermarket
Aida Sedano is a 76-year-old Mexican who made it clear in this viral Tiktok video that it is never too late if happiness is good. Here she explains the happiness that brings her to go to the supermarket and fill the shopping cart with what she wants, neither more nor less, in contrast to her married life: "If I picked a melon, he would say to me: 'Why do you want a melon? I don't like it.' And then we didn't catch it."
She acknowledges that the decision was hard, especially after 40 years of living together, but this retired teacher seems to have been very worthwhile.
A very thoughtful decision. And they take it
Esther Camacho is a member of the Psychology of Aging working group of the SEGG (Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology) and explains that the decision to break up after many years of marriage is not taken lightly. However, in Spain, in 2021 the majority of separations and divorces came after more than 20 years of duration:
"Many times these divorces already drag very prolonged problems in time, but it is difficult to end a bond where there are children, family, common friends, vacations, a house, etc.," says Camacho. So, with everything uphill, what is it that leads us to jump into the pool?
The psychologist highlights the desire to live well the years that remain to one (which can be 30), the desire to enjoy and do things that marriage did not allow and, of course, sometimes third parties break in: "If one is not satisfied, look for another person because the feeling desired persists and continue conquering". Other times, the engine of change is gender-based violence.
In this, as in other issues, there is a gap between the behavior of men and women. "Statistics say that it is they, 60-70% who take the initiative to divorce. They are more likely to continue with their married life and maintain a double life, if a parallel relationship arises," he says. In addition, women are the ones who enjoy their singleness the most, while they take little time to find another partner.
Another characteristic that makes it difficult is economic. It is true that there are usually fewer active loads, but it also becomes complex at a certain age to start again, look for a house or a livelihood: "Especially for older women, who on many occasions have not worked outside the home and feel more unprotected." Also, Camacho points out, having to assume bureaucratic, financial and/or domestic tasks that due to the distribution by virtue of gender roles have never before been faced are also stones in the way of late separations.
The children: why are you separating now?
Mario Vargas Llosa and his ex-wife Patricia Llosa, at the wedding of their daughter Josefina last March. Gtres
Esther Camacho points out that when someone senior ends what until then has been their life structure, with the end of marriage social difficulties can also come: "It is a time when you may no longer work and therefore, you lack a work group to turn to. The chances of making new friends are reduced and the fear of loneliness arrives."
These changes are radical and sometimes lead to sadness and depression: "A very predominant emotion is to feel pity or concern for the other, even if the relationship has been stormy, and regret, more for what we have not done than for what we have done wrong," adds Camacho. To this is added the anxiety about the uncertainty of the future and the feeling of vertigo.
In general, concludes the expert, society only offers references of 'gray' divorce in public figures (Bill Gates-Melinda French, Vargas Llosa-Isabel Preysler) and does not accept this type of ruptures well. What about children? "They have already left home and therefore they are no longer traumatized but they do have an opinion. The question is usually, 'Why now?' We should all be more empathetic and supportive of them more."
Who gets the family home and other legal issues
Elena Crespo is a family lawyer and managing partner of Crespo Law, Family Lawyers. It points out several 'hot' spots in a 'grey' divorce. One of them is who gets the family home. The usual thing is that the children are already independent, so in this aspect economic issues related exclusively to the couple are valued.
"The use of housing can be granted for a time to that part of the couple most economically harmed by the breakup. This possibility also exists in the elderly, especially if one of them has limited resources and no probability of entering the world of work, "he explains. If the situation of both spouses is similar, it is advisable to sell the house and distribute the benefits.
The pension or compensatory benefit is another key point in separations between the elderly. This is an amount of money that one spouse receives from the other when the divorce harms him or her financially. It can be temporary (more frequent), indefinite, or a one-time payment. "In divorces in old age it is common that lifetime compensation is agreed, because its concession is related to the role that each spouse has occupied in the family economy. A classic example is that of the spouse who remains at home in the care of the family and does not generate economic income, thus allowing the labor development of the other party to the detriment of their own, "clarifies Elena Crespo.
And what happens to the widow's pension if the ex-spouse dies? Counsel explains that this pension should be paid if (1) the former spouse has not remarried or formed a domestic partnership, and (2) if he or she is in receipt of a compensatory pension that is extinguished by this death.
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