October 20, 2021

Grey Divorce: Avoiding financial devastation

divorce

Couples in their 50s, 60s and even their 70s are getting divorced after a lifetime together. It’s becoming so common that it now has its own reference in Wikipedia® – “Grey Divorce”.

While divorce is one of the most significant emotional and financial events that can occur in any person’s life, Grey Divorce has its own unique issues. Parenting agreements are not usually one of them (as any children are usually well and truly adults) however, and especially for those in the mining and resources sector, there can be extremely complex financial matters that, if handled incorrectly, can be devastating.

As is the case for all divorcing couples (and de facto separations), assets of the relationship must be divided up or sold, which unfortunately is often not at a time of their choosing, which can mean in markets that are unforgiving.

Downsizing usually occurs, assuming both parties can afford to rehouse themselves, debts are repaid or refinanced and superannuation is split.

Unlike younger divorcees, Grey Divorcees usually don’t not have another 25 years of their working lives left to recover financially. Older women are particularly disadvantaged, as they often have had little, or no opportunity to accumulate substantial superannuation of their own if they have been the primary caregiver and therefore unable to work.

In my experience, while divorce proceedings will almost certainly bring difficult times, applying to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia for orders, should only be considered a last resort.

There are quicker, less confrontational and certainly less expensive options available than applying to the Court for orders and enduring a contested court case.

While you will be required to follow a legal process there are a number of related, and just as pressing matters, that need to be considered. These include developing a financial ‘recovery’ plan, dealing with debt, and refinancing if it is required to buy out jointly-owned assets.

For mining and resources executives, there are added complexities relating to executive share schemes and remuneration packages that may include potential bonuses or executive share options. As there can be a large income difference between spouses, negotiating the division of assets, including superannuation, will also be necessary.

Your next steps

If considering divorce, your first step should be to talk to a lawyer who is experienced in separation and divorce. Ensure you are advised of the complete process and know your options.

Next, negotiate with your partner (with or without lawyers) and exchange documents that will facilitate negotiations and the settlement process. You should also attend mediation with your partner with an experienced family dispute resolution practitioner or family law mediator (again, with or without lawyers).

For mining and resources executives and business owners, your circumstances are likely to be more complex, therefore taking an ‘advice-team’ approach that includes your lawyer, financial planner and accountant and tax specialist, who will interact with one another and consult collectively on your behalf, is recommended.

I can speak from direct experience, that working collaboratively with specialised professionals delivers well-considered, usually seamless and workable solutions that generally deliver better outcomes, sooner.

For guidance and advice about separation and divorce, please contact Robert Lamb on +61 (0) 7 3007 2000 or email contact@resourcesunearthed.com.au

Resources Unearthed is a solutions hub that provides integrated financial, legal, property, accounting and business advisory services for executives, professionals and business owners in the mining and resources sectors.

The information in this article is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate, we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.

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