It’s a well-established trend that divorce rates continue to rise among couples over the age of 50. For the past three decades, so-called “gray divorce” has become a phenomenon here in the United States and in many other countries.
There are numerous theories to explain why gray divorce is on the rise, including the idea that increased life expectancy makes many couples unwilling to stay in unfulfilling marriages. But if you find yourself facing divorce later in life, you may want to spend some time focusing on “how” rather than just “why.” Compared to divorce among younger couples, gray divorces have some advantages as well as some potential pitfalls you’ll need to carefully avoid.
Fewer worries about custody and short-term finances
One common catalyst for gray divorce is “empty nest syndrome.” Kids grow up and move out, and couples realize they don’t have much in common anymore. Thankfully, divorce at this age likely means that there are no decisions to be made regarding child custody, which could ultimately mean less stress and acrimony during the divorce process.
In households where both spouses work, financial security is also less likely to be an issue. Both spouses may have advanced in their careers and have more individual earning power than they did when they were younger. This means they could be better able to weather the financial effects of the divorce.
Problems: complex asset division and retirement savings
One downside to being more financially stable and successful is that you likely have more assets to divide, and they can be complex. If one spouse owns and operates a business, for instance, it can be complicated to properly value the business and negotiate different assets in exchange for the other spouse’s stake in the business.
Retirement savings are also a major concern. Chances are good that you’ve been saving up to retire as a married couple, but it costs more to retire as two single people. And because you are closer to retirement, you have less time to make up the difference. Therefore, it is critical that each spouse advocate for their fair share of retirement assets. Even if a pension or retirement plan only has one spouse’s name on it, there’s a good chance that the other spouse is entitled to a share of the assets accrued during the marriage.
Dividing complex property and correctly dividing retirement assets are certainly possible, but they require the help of a skilled and experienced attorney.
No matter when you decide to divorce, there will be logistical pros and cons. What won’t change, however, is the need for a good attorney. Hiring the right attorney for your divorce is an investment in your financial future.