Divorce, no matter when it occurs, can be a real challenge for couples. Marriage can bring many benefits to couples both personally and financially, and divorce means a loss of these benefits.
The financial costs of divorce can be particularly severe for older couples. There has been an increase in so-called “gray divorce” – divorce between couples over the age of 50 – in recent years, and this can threaten the financial autonomy of divorcees. In particular, women are typically hit harder by divorce than men, financially speaking.
How gray divorce tends to impact women
Divorce makes it harder to save up for retirement, especially for women. One reason for this is that divorce results in a loss of the economies of scale. Instead of paying for combined resources and shared expenses, divorced individuals now have to pay for their own individual housing, vehicles, utilities and any number of other costs.
Women also tend to lose more money than men in a divorce and generally have a harder time building it back up after a divorce. This puts divorced women, especially older divorced women, at increased risk of living under the poverty line.
Therefore, financial planning and advocacy become especially important in gray divorces. Here are some key ways in which a family law attorney can help with navigating a gray divorce:
Prior to the property division process, one of the purposes of planning is to conduct a thorough evaluation of a party’s financial standing and interests, and to come up with a strategy to ensure an outcome consistent with that party’s financial goals. For older couples, there are a variety of unique considerations to keep in mind.
Couples who have been married for at least 10 years prior to divorce are eligible to receive Social Security benefits calculated on the basis of a former spouse’s income. This is a benefit to the spouse who earned less money during the marriage. Timing a divorce so as to take advantage of this aspect of Social Security law could be a good decision in some cases.
Older women planning for divorce should also bear in mind that retirement benefits – such as a spouse’s 401(k) and individual retirement accounts – can be an important source of income after divorce. Getting your fair share of such benefits can be critical to your financial future – particularly if you have no personal retirement savings yourself.
Another issue to consider is spousal support, or alimony, which can be particularly important for an older woman who was out of the workforce during the marriage – and who may have a difficult time transitioning back into work after divorce.
Divorce planning is valuable for every couple, but particularly for older couples. If you are looking at the possibility of divorce, you could benefit from working with an experienced family law attorney to help you plan. This can help to ensure you have an advocate who is prepared to negotiate the best possible outcome for you.