Divorce rates in the United States have flattened or gone down for the most part. The notable exception to the trend is couples who are age 50 and up. According to several sources, 10% of couples in this age bracket filed for divorce in the 1990s. Now that number is up to 25% with experts expecting it climb higher. Known as “grey divorce,” this phenomenon involves baby boomers who have raised their family yet grown apart over the years. They now have different goals, whether it is continuing to work versus enjoying a relaxing retirement or traveling instead of focusing on the grandchildren.
Long marriages represent a range of challenges for couples who split up. The hardest part may be explaining it to grandchildren and grown children, but there are other challenges as well.
6 issues to consider
The divorce not only involves the long marriage, but it also must consider issues if the couple is retirement age or close to it:
- Dividing retirement benefits: This will likely be one of the most substantial assets, but making changes to accounts may affect their value, mainly if money is taken out.
- Dividing other assets: Long marriages mean that most everything is marital asset unless there is a premarital or postmarital agreement. It may also be hard to determine the tangible value of certain assets because they have been in the family for so long.
- Insurance: Health insurance is often through the spouse with the higher income – the other spouse loses coverage when the divorce is final and may find a similar policy prohibitively expensive. Ex-spouses also need to be removed from life insurance policies as well.
- Adult children: Children are often busy trying to balance work and life and may not be available to provide needed support.
- Not enough money: Couples plan for retirement with a certain lifestyle standard in mind. This plan suddenly needs to accommodate two primary residences. The income-earning window may be closing — meaning the spouses will have to work longer than expected to rebuild the nest egg. The window may be closed — meaning they will have to work for less or live on a fixed income with much less money than they are accustomed to.
- A subsequent marriage: Second marriages can come to an end as well, leaving spouses who did not sign a prenup to face many headaches in determining which assets are divided and by what percentage.
The future is now
Many older couples saved for the future, whether it is college tuition for the kids or their retirement. The future is now for those involved in a grey divorce, and it is often best to work with an experienced family law attorney to protect a client’s assets and rights to ensure that the split is an equitable one.