Seniors who are going through a “gray divorce” have many different concerns that younger couples. These concerns are based on such factors as they’ve accumulated more assets including retirement plans, they generally don’t have young children to take care, and they are more likely to have health issues.
Gray divorce generally includes people who have been married at least 20 years, or who are in their 50s or older. These are some of the key issues that an experienced divorce lawyer will review with older and long-married clients:
Alimony is more likely
For younger spouses, alimony helps a spouse transition to a new life and to acquire the skills and education they need to start a career. Periodic alimony is more likely to be paid to couples who have been married for a long-time – such as for 20 years or more. Periodic payments are usually made on a monthly or bimonthly basis. Your attorney may also negotiate a lump-sum payment. Periodic alimony payments generally end when the spouse dies of if the spouse remarries.
Equitable division of retirement benefits and other assets is more complicated
Many seniors have pensions, IRAs, annuities, and other retirement packages. For seniors, these benefits have either vested or should vest shortly. Retirement benefits are generally part of the property that gets equitably divided between spouses. So, the bad news is you will likely to have to share your retirement benefits with your spouse if you divorce. The good news is that if your spouse has his/her own retirement plan, you get the same right to share in their retirement benefits. Also, retirement benefits are often used as a trade-off – a way, for example, to pay a spouse so you can keep the marital home.
In addition to retirement benefits, there should be substantial equity in a marital home. If a spouse owned or worked for a business; there may be stock options, ownership interests, and executive compensation packages.
There’s also a greater likelihood that you or a spouse may receive an inheritance if you/they haven’t already. Inheritances are generally considered separate property, but they can affect the overall financial negotiations.
Children are less of a factor
If you’re older, then your children are more likely to be over 18 and to have finished high school and college. For mature children, there is no need to fight over custody or over child support. If you had your children late or adopted children when you are older, then seniors do need to negotiate or litigate child custody and child support. Exceptions may apply if your children are still going to college or they have a disability. In many cases, seniors should be able to take comfort in enjoying their children and grandchildren and even in relying on children to help them out when needed.
You should consider a prenuptial agreement
Older people who are thinking of remarrying should also consider a prenuptial agreement, since they and their partner are likely to have acquired substantial assets by the time they remarry. A pre-nup can help you ensure that your children are taken care of in the event of your death, and that your estate is divided in the way you want it to be. Prenuptial agreements may not be “romantic,” but they are practical, and older couples with significant assets would do well to discuss this option sooner, rather than later.
Mediation may be a better option
Divorce mediation helps to expedite the divorce process. When you’re older, you don’t want to spend years litigating your divorce. You want to get on with your life. Also, since children normally aren’t involved or a priority, most divorce disputes are about the division of the marital property and alimony – the economic issues. Mediation is a good tool for understanding each spouse’s finances and working out financial agreements
Additional factors in gray divorce
- Health factors. Seniors do need to consider such issues as life-expectancy, medical needs, who will care for them if they have physical or mental health issues, and other health-related issues. Do you need to move into a nursing home or assisted living facility?
- What you want to do with the rest of your life. Do you want to retire? Do you want to start a new career? Do you want to travel? Do you want to be with family? Do you want to try new hobbies?
- Social Security. You and your spouse need to review when to take your social security retirement benefits and how much you will get. You may also be entitled to use your spouse’s social security if he/she dies first – if you are married but generally not if you divorce.
- Estate plans. Have you changed your beneficiaries? Is your life insurance up-to-date? Even if you train control over certain policies, you still want to make sure your documentation is correct.
We understand the emotional and financial trauma of divorce. We have the experience and resources to properly value all your assets and those of your husband or wife. At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we work to negotiate fair settlements but we’re also ready to try to your case in court, if necessary. To secure your future while moving on from your marriage, call us at 615-977-9370. You can also fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent clients in and near Franklin, Columbia and Brentwood.