Six ways to help an elderly friend or relative leave an unhappy marriage

During this season of COVID-19 we have learned that we can do a much better job of caring for and protecting our elderly. From the conditions of some care facilities to devastating loneliness, to situations of elder abuse hidden away from sight, we can no longer turn a blind eye.

Some in their twilight years are coming to realize they cannot stay in a marriage or relationship that is harmful or has been dead for years. It can take a lot of courage to make a change, to step out and say ‘I do not deserve to be treated this way.’ And to have hope for the future, even if it means being on your own.

If a senior in your life confides in you that they wish to leave their spouse, what can you do to help?

Here are just a few ideas:

  1. If you suspect any form of abuse, talk to them about a safety plan for a moment of crisis. Who will they call and where will they go if family violence occurs or seems imminent?
  2. Empower them through knowledge and resources – the BC Government offers this list of local resources related to Elder Abuse.
  3. Even if abuse is not an issue, it can take courage and knowledge to leave a bad relationship. Obtaining legal advice from a family lawyer is critical to understanding the process, and your rights and obligations.
  4. Since separation and divorce are not simply legal processes, get them in touch with a financial advisor, a therapist, a doctor and other professionals, as needed. We believe in a holistic approach to ensure a person has all the support they need while walking through separation.
  5. Understand there are healthier, less toxic, methods of separation than what you may have seen on TV or heard from a neighbour. Mediation and collaborative divorce are two dispute resolution processes frequently chosen by senior clients who don’t want the cost and extreme stress of litigation. If they don’t want a battle, know that a fair and balanced agreement is still possible with a committed advocate by their side.
  6. Finally, know your limits. Standing with someone as a friend does not mean rescuing them from every bad choice or making decisions for them. The senior in your life needs your friendship and care, so don’t burn out! Widen the circle of support.

If you or someone you know is a senior contemplating separation or divorce, don’t hesitate to contact us.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on the Connect Family Law website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action, based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. One of our lawyers would be pleased to discuss any specific legal concerns you may have.

About Rebecca Stanley

Lawyer/Mediator – Fraser Valley/Vancouver

The focus of my practice is to empower people as they navigate the unique stresses (and opportunities) that accompany significant life transitions. My clients have said that my calm, strength and wisdom provide a solid anchor in the sometimes stormy seas of separation and divorce. I feel fortunate to be part of the Connect team, a collective of legal professionals and staff who understand that it is a privilege to support families through times of challenge and transformation.