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September

Unique Issues in Late-Life Divorce

By Iafrate & Salassa

senior couple sitting on sofa at home as they prepare to speak to a Clinton Township divorce attorney

Once a marriage hits the 20-year mark, most people would assume the couple will remain together for the remainder of their lives. Typically, long-lasting marriages serve as a point of pride for these couples because it is seen as more rare in today’s society, and thus is more celebrated. This assumption, though, is not reflected in the age group with highest divorce rates over the past 25 years. During this time, divorce rates for couples aged 55 and over have more than doubled, and approximately one in four couples over 50 ends in divorce. Since this generation comprises such a large percentage of the population in this country, decisions they make about work and finances can affect the outlook for younger groups, so it is important to explore how divorce specifically touches this group.

At this stage in a person’s life, the problems of children and fledgling or climaxing careers are not at issue. On the contrary, the items of concern for couples divorcing near the end of their life are considerably different, and the focus of the divorce case should show this shift. Two big concerns for this age group relate to a lack of financial stability among women and the impact of divorce on retirement. Women in the age group are more likely to fall into poverty after a late-life divorce, and expectations of retirement must be adjusted now that that available pool of assets may be cut by 50 percent. Methods for combating these problems so divorce does not financially ruin the later years in life will follow below.

Securing Income

One of the largest adjustments divorce brings, to women especially, is the loss of stable income. This means at a time when many people are considering retirement, the recently divorced person may need to consider working beyond the age of 65, or reentering the workforce after an absence of many years. Women commonly fall into this second group, and find themselves at a steep disadvantage that commonly leaves them relegated to part-time, minimum wage jobs that fall far short of paying for all their needs. One source of possible income available to parties leaving long-term marriages is spousal support or alimony. While an award of spousal support is not automatic and is determined on a case-by-case basis, it is normally awarded if one spouse will be financially worse off after the divorce and the other party can pay, or the property award is not enough to provide financial support. In addition, pensions and other retirement plans that are earned and accrue in value during the marriage are considered marital property and subject to division like other assets.

Property Division Considerations

Couples in the later stages of life ordinarily have many different types of property, which can complicate how to fairly divide assets and liabilities. The marital home is often one of the larger assets jointly owned by spouses, and if a couple lived in this home for many years, thoughts of selling to split the proceeds may be hard to ponder, but maintaining a larger home on one income may not be feasible without depleting other assets intended to fund retirement, such as 401(k)s and IRAs. While there will be tax consequences each party will have to factor into any property settlement, keeping this asset after divorce may not make sense.

Get Legal Advice

If you are considering divorce, talk to a knowledgeable divorce attorney before filing a petition to ensure you effectively use the law to protect your interests. The lawyers at the Clinton Township law firm of Iafrate & Salassa, P.C. are skilled at negotiating settlement agreements and litigating disputed issues in court. Contact us so we can help you get the best possible results.

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