Spouses do not generally take pride in getting divorced, and most do everything possible to avoid this outcome. The assumption often is that getting married later in life or having a decade of marriage under one’s belt means the likelihood of divorce is quite small, but numbers from the last few years on the groups with the highest divorce rates challenge the validity of this belief. The number of couples seeking divorce over the age of 50 has doubled since 1990. This phenomenon, known as gray divorce, presents unique challenges to these spouses because of the life stage they are in when the marriage is dissolved.
Divorce upends the finances of almost every couple, and recovering from the financial losses takes time. When divorce happens during prime working years, each spouse has time to recoup that money through income and investments. Those over 50 have many fewer working years left, and more upcoming major expenses to factor into short- and long- term financial planning and property settlements. Thus, older adults seeking to divorce should not approach this process as someone would at the age of 35. Doing so could greatly affect their financial stability once retirement is taken. A discussion of the issues older adults looking to divorce need to include when determining how to structure a property settlement, and the possible payment of alimony or spousal maintenance, will follow below.
Because of the smaller window to try and recoup the financial losses of divorce, it is important to know all potential avenues of income so that a clear picture of what to expect can be used to plan. Divorced spouses, without impacting the benefits of the other person, are entitled to collect Social Security retirement benefits based off the former spouse’s earning record if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, and the individual requesting benefits is unmarried, 62 or older, and his/her benefits would be less. There is a two-year waiting period after divorce before this benefit is available, and to receive the full amount (50% of the former spouse’s retirement benefit), the individual will need to wait until his/her full retirement age. Because of this gap in time, the spouse with less income may want to negotiate spousal maintenance to cover this period if the other spouse has the ability to pay.
Older couples typically plan to rely on the funds in retirement accounts to sustain until the end. However, all marital property is subject to division in divorce, meaning each person will likely have half the amount he/she anticipated for the post-work years. An additional wrinkle is that only contributions and growths experienced during the marriage are typically subject to division. Thus, if the account predates the marriage, the value of the account that accumulated during the marriage would need to be calculated so the proper division can be made. This will leave the other spouse with less to live on in the long-term, and should be factored into the division of other property to see if the difference can and should be accounted for through other assets.
Finally, many couples 50 and over have long-term care policies that are intended to cover the costs of major medical events. Depending on the terms of the policy, it may be possible to keep the policy as written, or two separate policies may need to be created. Separate policies will have different premiums, usually higher, and paying for the increase may be an issue for one or both spouses. This is another issue that should clearly be referenced in the divorce judgment.
Divorcing in the later part of life can offer both additional freedom and more costly financial consequences. Talking to a divorce attorney about what to expect and how to structure a settlement to account for these issues is important to a fair outcome. Christopher L. Arrington, P.C. understands the situation you are facing and will work to get you the best arrangement possible Contact the Avon divorce attorney today at (317) 745-4494 to schedule an appointment.