In recent years, there has been a growing trend for couples in their silver years opting for a divorce after many years of marriage, particularly once their children have reached adulthood.
Many times, these elderly couples could have tolerated each other while their children were still at home, but they now cannot imagine staying married to the same person any longer.
In other instances, it could be where one of the spouses left the home years ago, but the left-behind spouse chose not to file for divorce, whether for fear of societal stigma or simply being unaware of their rights to be able to do so.
This trend reflects a broader societal and cultural shift, bringing along its unique challenges and concerns, primarily when adult children assist their parents through this transition.
The Role of Sons and Daughters
Most of the time, the adult children’s involvement in their parents’ divorce is to provide emotional and practical support as their parents navigate the legal proceedings.
The adult children may assist their parents in looking into the complex issues, such as the division of matrimonial assets, which can be particularly intricate in long marriages where assets are deeply intertwined and record-keeping may not have been as robust or accessible as it is now.
Legal Considerations in Silver Years Divorces
From a legal standpoint, the divorce process in Singapore for elderly couples comes with unique challenges. Unlike most divorce cases where there may be children-related issues, the main concern for the elderly couple would be the division of matrimonial assets and spousal maintenance.
Generally, the assets in question would involve the following:
- Immovable Property;
- Bank Accounts;
- Shares and Investments; and
- CPF Account.
Further, in many cases, one spouse may have assumed the role of the homemaker throughout the marriage while the other spouse was the sole breadwinner.
In such cases, the homemaker spouse’s contributions would generally be limited to non-financial contributions such as raising children and caring for the home.
The breadwinner spouse may argue that these contributions are insufficient, as they may believe that such contributions are “expected” and do not warrant the homemaker spouse to a share of the family’s accumulated wealth.
Further, where the homemaker spouse relied on the breadwinner spouse for financial support during the marriage, the issue of spousal maintenance post-divorce would also arise, especially if the breadwinner spouse is now retired or close to retirement.
It is also important to consider the living arrangements and the financial needs of the elderly couple following the divorce, given their age and potential care needs.
Hence, it is often not simply a discussion of the division of matrimonial assets, but to plan for a secure and stable post-divorce, considering their age and unique needs.
Emotional Well-being and Support from Sons and Daughters
In addition to the practical support, the emotional support given by adult children to their elderly parents is also important.
This can include active listening, reassuring, and encouraging engagement with professional counsellors or therapists. It’s also important that adult children look after their own emotional health while supporting their parents, maintaining a balance between being a supportive presence and caring for their own well-being.
How GJC Lawyers Can Assist
In conclusion, navigating the complexities of an elderly divorce in Singapore is a journey that requires understanding, patience, and the right support.
For adult children assisting their parents through this challenging time, it’s a delicate balance of providing emotional support, managing legal and financial aspects, and balancing their own lives.
At GJC Law, we offer tailored legal advice, sensitive handling of asset division and maintenance issues, and support in managing the unique challenges that arise in such cases.
By partnering with GJC Law, siblings gain not only legal expertise but also a supportive ally, ensuring that their parents’ journey through divorce is handled with dignity, care, and the utmost professionalism.
Frequently Asked Questions
I am retired; can my wife still ask for maintenance?
The determination of spousal maintenance follows the same principles in a silver years divorce where the Court will look at both spouses’ reasonable financial needs and their respective financial means.
My mother walked out of the family ten years ago – can my father file for divorce?
Yes, your father can still file for divorce. However, as your mother will still need to be notified of the divorce proceedings, your father would need to make an application for substituted service (if your mother’s location is known) or request for dispensation of service.
My father was the only person who paid for the matrimonial assets and household expenses – will my mother, a housewife, be entitled to a share of the matrimonial assets?
Yes, your mother will still be eligible to a share of the matrimonial assets as her indirect contributions towards the family will still be recognised. In long marriages, the Court would generally tend towards an equal distribution of the matrimonial assets.
My father has dementia – can my mother still file for divorce?
Yes, your mother can still file for divorce; however, it will be a more complex and long process where an application has to be made to the Court for a person to be appointed to make decisions and give consent on behalf of your father during the divorce proceedings.
We’re here for you
At Gloria James-Civetta & Co, we aim to find a solution that will work for you and your family. Our matrimonial law team will provide a consultation tailored to your circumstances and needs.