I am over the age of 50 and considering divorce, what do I need to know?

Getting a divorce over the age of 50 years old is not uncommon. The rate of divorce within this age group has more than doubled since 1990 and experts expect it to triple by 2030. The reasons for a split later in life vary from an opportunity to start a new chapter in life, unhappiness within the marriage and the simple fact that our perception of marriage has shifted, and divorce is no longer seen as a social stigma.

Whatever the reason for the divorce, it is important to recognize that a divorce later in life is much different than when we are in our twenties or thirties. Our assets are different, and our family situation is also likely different. As a result, we need to approach the divorce differently. The following will provide some guidance on how to handle these two big differences.

Difference #1: Our family situation.

It is likely that our children are either in college, reached adulthood or are very close to one of these milestones once we are in our fifties and beyond. As a result, the need for discussions about child custody and child support are often not as important as they were when the children were very young.

Although not as pressing, we may still want to have conversations about how we will help fund our children if they are in college, learning a trade, or otherwise pursing professional and educational opportunities. You can account for these needs with a divorce settlement agreement tailored to your specific situation.

Difference #2: Our assets.

When it comes to our finances, we are often just getting started when in our twenties, but when we hit our fifties, we are more likely to have retirement assets and other wealth built from earlier in life. We must tread carefully when dividing assets because a misstep can have serious financial ramifications. Three specific mistakes to avoid include:

  • Neglecting alimony or spousal support. Spousal support is still a factor. The duration and amount will vary for each situation. Factors that impact the amount can include work and education history as well as standard of living during the marriage.
  • Giving up all the retirement assets. Maybe we want the family home or full ownership in a family business. Whatever asset has that allure, be careful not to agree to give up all the retirement assets. It takes years for these assets to build and gain worth. Once lost, it can be close to impossible to recoup these savings.
  • Forgetting about taxes. In many cases the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not expect tax payments on transfers that are a part of divorce. However, there are some exceptions. This is especially true when it comes to splitting retirement assets. As a result, get the information on any potential tax implications before agreeing to the proposed division.

These are just a few of the issues that are unique to gray divorce — but you do not need to go through it alone. Legal counsel can help guide you through the process and advocate for your interests. It is helpful to get someone with experience in this niche area of family law to help mitigate the risk of surprises once the divorce is finalized.