Although divorce rates overall may have decreased over the last several years, there’s still one category of people who have seen an uptick in marriage dissolution rates over the last decade: older individuals. These divorces involving people over the age of 50 are referred to as gray divorces, and many of them involve long-term marriages.
Given their positioning in life, these individuals can face unique challenges in their divorce. That’s why if you’re facing this situation, then you need to prepare yourself to address the legal issues that await you lest you lose out on what you deserve. But first, let’s look at why gray divorces are so common nowadays.
Reasons for gray divorce
There are a lot of reasons why older Americans divorce later in life. That said, here are some of the most common justifications for seeking divorce later in life:
- Realizing that you and your spouse no longer have anything in common, especially once children have moved out and one or both spouses retire, thereby increasing the amount of time the two of you spend together.
- Trying to find a way to cope with aging, which may mean finding a new interest that motivates one of the spouses to change in a way that makes them feel younger.
- Disagreements over money management and spending habits.
- Lack of intimacy.
- Differences in lifestyles.
If you’re experiencing any of these situations and are thinking about getting a divorce, then you need to make sure that you also consider the legal issues that could be awaiting you.
Key legal issues in a gray divorce
As you navigate your divorce, you’ll have to deal with several unique and complicated issues. Amongst them are the following:
- Alimony: Given that many marriages that are subject to a gray divorce were long-lasting, spousal support can be a key issue. This is especially true given that older individuals have less time to rebuild their savings and advance in their careers. So, make sure you have strong arguments to support your position here so that you have the financial stability that you need post-divorce.
- Inheritances: Many older individuals who have been in a long marriage inherit property at some point in time. Although these inheritances are typically considered to be individually owned property that’s removed from the marital estate and thus the property division process, commingling of an inheritance with marital assets can subject them to division. So, if inheritances are in play in your case, then you need to develop arguments to address whether it should be deemed individual or marital in nature.
- Retirement accounts: You and your spouse have spent decades saving for retirement. But dividing these assets can be more complicated than you think. You need to know how to handle them, otherwise you could end up missing out on the assets to which you’re entitled, or you could get hit with massive tax penalties.
- Insurance: Now that you’re older, you’ll want to be cognizant of how your divorce will impact your healthcare. If you’re worried that you won’t be covered under an existing plan once your divorce is finalized, then you may want to consider asking for more money through your divorce settlement so that you can afford to purchase your own policy post-divorce.
- Social Security benefits: You might be able to recover Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work history. But if you make a misstep here, such as by filing your divorce petition at the wrong time, then you could end up missing out on this oftentimes much-needed financial lifeline.
Don’t leave your gray divorce to chance
As you can see, there are a lot of issues that go into a gray divorce. If you enter your marriage dissolution unprepared, then you could be at risk of being financially disadvantaged once all is said and done.
If you want to avoid that from happening, then now is the time to start figuring out how to craft your legal strategy. Although that may sound daunting, by educating yourself about the process and articulating your goals you can better position yourself for the outcome that you want and deserve.