Aging Canadians confront cruel financial reality of "grey divorce"
Linda Nguyen, The Province
When Deborah O'Connor was 50, her marriage died.
At the time, she didn't realize her decision to leave the unhappy relationship was going to result in a costly battle still being fought in the courts five years later.
O'Connor estimates she has spent $150,000 in legal bills and other separation-related costs including taxes on a home she no longer lives in.
"It did me in," said O'Connor, a University of British Columbia professor who studies the effects of divorce on baby boomers and seniors.
According to Statistics Canada, "grey divorce" has been steadily growing among those 55 and over, with rates expected to increase as more people continue to age.
While marriage remains the predominant family structure in Canada, it only represents 67 per cent of Canadian families, down from 70.5 per cent a decade ago — and 91.6 per cent in 1961, before the advent of the Divorce Act, Statistics Canada reported Wednesday in its latest batch of 2011 census data.
And for the first time, the number of common-law families in Canada outstripped the number of single-parent families in 2011, another sign of the declining popularity of matrimony.
As baby boomers — their children grown and moved out of the family home — reach the retirement-age threshold, divorces among couples 65 years old and older are becoming more and more common, according to Statistics Canada numbers that pre-date Wednesday's census release.
In 2008, there were 1,237 divorces among women 65 and older, 2,486 among men of that age and 852 divorces where both partners were over the age of 65, the agency's figures show.
O'Connor said it's no longer just men who are leaving their wives, perhaps for a younger woman. In the past few years, she said she's heard more cases of older women exiting their long-term marriages by choice.