In 1990, about 2.8 percent of people seeking divorce were 50 years of age or older. By 2011, that number rose above 28 percent, or one in four people. Today, these divorce statistics continue to rise as baby boomers live longer. Sociologists call it a “grey or gray divorce,” and it has a significant impact on retirement, income, and other important areas in your life.
If you’re over 50 and considering a divorce, keep a few things in mind before placing yourself in a stressful and financial hardship.
1. The Children
No matter your children’s ages, consider their feelings and emotions throughout the divorce process. Even if you have children with a family of their own, a divorce can damage your family’s unity and create an unnecessary divide if it’s not handled delicately. Though your role may end as a wife or a husband, a divorce does not terminate your role as a mother or a father.
2. Financial Assets
If you’ve been married for over 10 or 20 years, chances are you’ve accumulated some assets. Whether these assets are a home or retirement accounts or other investments, most people want to keep the home as part of the divorce settlement. Don’t assume that keeping the house puts you in a better position after the divorce. In most cases, a house continues to have unexpected expenses, which may or may not impact its future value. In addition, it’s much tougher to use your house to finance your retirement than using the money in your IRA or 401(k) account. It’s also possible to split one spouse’s retirement account or 401(k) through a domestic relations order.
In many cases, a spouse is entitled to permanent alimony; however, it’s not actually a permanent deal. Permanent alimony usually lasts until either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries. In some states, if the receiving spouse lives with someone else and has a supportive relationship, it can affect the alimony arrangement. The alimony payments also can be restructured after the supporting spouse retires and lives off a retirement fund.
4. Life and Health Insurance
During a marriage, couples often purchase a life insurance policy, which goes to the supported spouse after the divorce. Therefore, if the supporting spouse dies, the supported spouse gets the insurance payout. However, not many divorcees feel comfortable with an ex-spouse having a life insurance policy on them. You may find yourself in a position to take out a new life insurance or health insurance policy. Unfortunately, at a later stage in life, there may have pre-existing conditions that raise the costs of obtaining a new life insurance policy. Health insurance may also cost more after 50, so look into a replacement health insurance policy soon after the divorce.
5. Social Security Benefits
Social Security benefits can help the lesser-earning spouse after the divorce. In fact, the lesser earner can receive Social Security benefits based on the higher earner’s work record. However, the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and the lesser earner must be 62 or older. Even if the higher-earning spouse has not applied for Social Security benefits, the lesser-earning spouse can collect the benefits if the couple has been divorced for a minimum of two years.
If you are contemplating a “gray divorce”, we hope this list has been helpful in outlining your legal rights. If you have specific questions regarding your specific situation, please give Attorney Eric Cheshire a call at (561) 677-8090. Of course, you are always welcome to ask a question on our website (which all questions and answers stay confidential).
It’s unfortunate that baby boomers have the highest increase of divorce among adults, but a reality. Hopefully, we’ve included a few tips to help you get to the next step.
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Attorney Eric C. Cheshire
West Palm Beach Family Law Attorney