Sad senior
This can be a time for hard decisions. The ultimate goal is to develop a plan were seniors can separate with dignity and financial security

Seniors facing separation have different needs than younger couples. Understanding these needs is often a challenge for professionals who normally deal with younger people.

“Seniors often have sufficient resources to separate effectively” states elder lawyer and mediator Michael Butterfield. “The problems arise when seniors have used a large part of their retirement nest egg to fund their children” continued Butterfield.

This can create significant conflict in the family when one spouse has asked for the money back. The reality is that the children often have difficulty paying the money back.

The challenges

The challenges faced by seniors includes dividing pension funds, savings, and other retirement benefits. Unlike younger people, seniors do not have a lifetime to rebuild their savings. For many, they have saved all they will save.

“Seniors also have problems when separating their medical coverage” said Butterfield. This can be a huge expense for the spouse who is not covered after separation. It is also very difficult for seniors to obtain separated extended benefits.

A growing area of conflict is around the forced separation, which can occur if one spouse needs to enter a care home.  There is a lot of confusion as to what this does to asset division. This is especially true if the cost of the care home leaves insufficient money for the other spouse. 

Seniors facing separation often need financial counseling on how best to structure their financing. Often, one spouse has run the finances. The other spouse may have very little knowledge about how to plan for life alone.


The starting point is often to talk to the pension administrator. Unlike many young people, seniors often have good pensions. These may be divided by the pension fund, or by spousal support arrangements. RSP’s are easily divided, but seniors will need help reinvesting these funds. Always look for a Financial Advisor who is certified to assist seniors. The designation EPC means that these individuals have specialized training in help seniors. Clinch HERE for the list of BC Elder Certified Counsellors.  

If there is conflict, the best way to resolve it is with mediation,” said Butterfield. “Every dollar counts because seniors will not have the opportunity to start over, like younger people” continued Butterfield. 

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to develop a plan were seniors can separate with dignity and financial security.

Jayne Embree M.A.

Mediation Co-ordinator