Older couples often have valuable assets, complex property and little time to change retirement plans, making fair settlements crucial in gray divorces.
The phenomenon of "gray divorce," or divorce after age 50, has become increasingly common in the last decade. The proportion of people divorcing after 50 increased from 10 percent to 28 percent from 1990 to 2010, according to the New York Times. Today, the number of divorced people older than 50 has outstripped the number of widowed people in the same age group.
There is no denying that divorce is a complicated process at any age. However, people preparing to divorce after age 50 in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, should expect to navigate some especially challenging financial issues.
Dividing complex assets
One issue older couples often face is the division of complex assets, according to Forbes. Older individuals have had more time to accumulate personal assets, and couples in longer-lived marriages may have built up substantial marital assets, such as homes, retirement accounts and other savings. Inheritances from parents and other relatives can complicate matters as well, as the distinction between marital and separate property can be difficult to define.
Spouses can work together to decide how assets will be divided, but usually, spouses can reach a fairer division by seeking legal guidance, since many people do not understand their rights during property division. For instance, many individuals do not realize they may be entitled to part of a spouse's retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, pension plans or IRAs, if contributions were made to those accounts during the marriage.
Many assets can be divided by agreement or court order, but some assets cannot be distributed this way. For example, retirement plans can only be divided with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. It is beneficial for older couples to seek legal help when they divorce, to ensure that a fair settlement is awarded and that all court orders and documents are in order. Otherwise, spouses run the risk of losing financial solvency following the separation.
Planning for retirement
Another significant issue with divorcing later in life is that both spouses are near retirement, leaving little time to rebuild savings. Typically, even people who were on track to enjoy a comfortable retirement together may not have enough saved to fund two retirements. Separate retirements can cost 30 to 50 percent more than retiring as a couple would, according to USA Today.
Couples should remember that expenses associated with everything from housing to travel to in-home assistance double after a divorce. In light of these increases, many couples ultimately must choose between three options:
- Staying in the workforce and postponing retirement.
- Re-entering the workforce.
- Retiring on track, but with significantly different expectations.
Individuals facing these issues can benefit from hiring a financial advisor before the divorce is complete, so they can realistically evaluate what they will need to survive independently. The sooner spouses evaluate their financial needs, the better they will be able to communicate those needs during mediation or court proceedings.
Anyone preparing for divorce later in life should strongly consider meeting with an attorney. An attorney can advise an individual on legal rights and help him or her reach a settlement that will reduce the financial impact of the divorce.
Keywords: divorce, retirement, property