More and more couples are choosing not to grow old together

It is inevitable that we grow old. For many, the idea of having someone with whom to grow older is a prized comfort. You might think, therefore, that men and women over a certain age would sit back and enjoy the so-called “golden years” of their lives together.

That romantic vision has become a seemingly naïve delusion. It is no surprise that a significant portion of marriages end in divorce, but it likely would surprise some that the rate of divorce has boomed among an unlikely demographic: Baby Boomers. Just as they were the first generation to divorce and remarry in large numbers, so, too are they the first to cut marital ties after age 55 — the so-called “gray divorce.”

The face of divorce is changing: it is getting older

For more men and women raising families, their own parents very well could be going through a divorce. Since 1990, the rate of divorce for those 55 and older has increased about three-fold. It’s not just Mom and Dad splitting up; now, grandchildren are seeing divorce occur between Grandma and Grandpa.

gray divorce rate of americans over 50 shows divorce doubles

via Pew Research, “Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America’s 50+ population” by Renee Stepler March 9, 2017

The gray divorce trend means California divorce lawyers are addressing different needs in these types of family law cases. The ages of divorcing parties certainly change which aspects of a split are important to cover since many of the issues younger divorcing couples face, such as child custody, may not be a priority for gray divorcees.  Instead, issues such as property division take on added significance as financial security in retirement becomes critically important.

Are there special considerations for a retired couple seeking a divorce?

A couple who have already raised their children and are nearing retirement will have different divorce priorities. The parties will likely not have child custody or child support to worry about. In divorces wherein younger children are involved, those matters tend to be at the top of the parents’ priority lists. The issues can increase the hostility and time that go into finalizing a divorce.

If an older couple doesn’t have the child-related matters to negotiate, then the split should be easy, right? Wrong. First, there may be some matters related to the children for people to consider during a gray divorce. But like most matters that are most important at a later point in life, even the child-related issues will have to do with money rather than custody.

Financial details are a major part of all divorce negotiations, but it is even more dire for older individuals to protect their economic stability during gray divorce. A startling study reveals that men who divorce after 50 see a 21-percent reduction in their incomes. Women over 50 see a worrisome 45-percent reduction in their standards of living. The scariest statistic of all is that of the women who divorce at the age of 63 or older, more than one-quarter of them are living at poverty level.

So, are divorcing Baby Boomers destined to struggle?

If you are considering divorce and are over the age of 55, you need to meet with an attorney who can take stock of your overall circumstances, family and financial, in order to come up with a plan that will allow you to pursue happiness without sacrificing security. In general, three areas that should receive extra attention are: division of assets including retirement sources, life insurance and your estate plan.

Division of assets, including retirement sources

We know it sounds morbid, but the truth is that for those of Baby Boomer age, there is not a lot of time left to work and earn income. The money saved likely won’t grow very much. Your Social Security benefits will only be so high and not match the income earned while working. You have more of a set income due to time and age limitations.

It is crucial, therefore, to be clear and demanding regarding the value of the assets you will get out of the divorce. Consider the types of retirement accounts you and your ex are dividing and any tax ramifications they carry when negotiating a fair settlement.

Don’t fight to keep a home for strictly emotional reasons. If that is what you want, it should be based on a realistic budget and whether you can truly afford it given your post-divorce situation. Sure, invaluable memories were made within the home’s walls. You have happy memories to come that will be more easily created without the stress of living a life you can’t afford.

Life insurance

Throughout your marriage, you and/or your ex might have been paying into life insurance policies. The payout of a policy could have a significant impact on the financial stability of you and your family should either of you pass away.

Even in the case of divorce, parties will often agree to keep each other as the beneficiaries of any life insurance payouts. If that is not what you want for your policy, contact your insurer in order to change your beneficiary as soon as possible. Any insurance policy requires a listed beneficiary, so if you are not sure who to list as yours, consult with an experienced family law attorney. If you know your ex has a life insurance policy and it would be important for you to receive that payout down the road, stress that desire to your divorce attorney and negotiate that point specifically.

Estate plan

This is the point in your life when your estate plan should be entirely in order. When you get divorced, you and your ex should revisit the terms of your plans. Just as when you discuss life insurance payouts, the setup of inheritance within your wills and trusts should be reconsidered upon divorce.

Will you still want your ex to inherit your money or other assets? Does your ex want you to benefit from their will? Don’t just consider what you and your ex need, want, or deserve. These financial discussions are likely about what will or won’t go to your adult children.

Divorce may seem daunting so trust the professionals

These are just a few basic points about how to wisely divorce if you are over a certain age. Your case is unique to you and your family. The right divorce lawyer will listen to your story in order to address the issues critical to you in your current stage of life. Don’t let the normal fear of financial hardship keep you from at least talking to a lawyer about your gray divorce options. For some, an unhappy marriage isn’t worth the singular financial benefit of avoiding divorce.