Many people think of divorce as something that happens mostly to younger couples, and it is true that the majority of divorces occur within this subset. That said, and while the general divorce rate has declined during the past 20 years, the current divorce rate with older couples has increased significantly during the past few decades. According to findings from the Pew Research Center, divorce rates in those over 50 have doubled since 1990. For people over 65, divorce rates have tripled.
Divorce among Americans 50 and up has become so common it has a nickname: “grey divorce.” It’s unclear why divorce in this age group, typically the Baby Boomer generation, is currently on the rise. It may simply be that divorce has become more socially acceptable over time. It is also likely that at least some of these divorces are second marriages—which according to statistics—are more likely to end in divorce than a first marriage.
It could also be that couples who stayed together “for the sake of the children” no longer feel compelled to do so once the children are grown and are away from the home. Or they may believe that more of life is behind them than ahead and have decided that they have different objectives for the second portion of their lives. Spouses who might have once stayed in unfulfilling marriages for reasons of financial security may now have the income and wherewithal to start fresh. There are probably as many reasons for the rise in the grey divorce as there are people facing divorce after 50.
If you are among this group, know that you are not alone and that many others share this new life stage with you. Nonetheless, those divorcing after 50 face many unique factors and considerations that are different from those faced by younger couples.
Divorcing in your 50s, 60s, 70s or beyond generally means that you probably won’t have to deal with some of the common sources of conflict in divorce, like child custody, parenting differences and child support. However, divorcing later in life carries its own challenges, most of these being financial in nature.
For one thing, the cost of living is greater for each individual when living alone than when living as a couple—perhaps as much as 40-50% higher. At the same time, household income frequently drops significantly following a divorce: often by as much as 25% for men and 40% for women. To make financial matters more complicated, when divorcing in your 50s or later, you are probably closing in on planned retirement, or possibly already retired. Accordingly, there is less opportunity to recover from the financial restructuring that often follows a divorce. However, many older couples facing divorce also have significant equity in their homes, retirement accounts, and businesses that may need to be considered and protected.
Complicating the issues of the grey divorce, it is possible that one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent or homemaker who spent significant years outside of the work force. After divorcing midlife or later in life, that spouse may not as easily be able to become self-supporting and may need to receive alimony from their former spouse for a longer time. At the same time, being required to pay alimony to a former spouse during this stage in life may impose a tremendous financial burden upon the other spouse. Both issues must factor deeply into the plan for divorce.
Divorce at any stage of life offers the opportunity for a new beginning and a divorce later in life is no exception. But without careful consideration and planning for adequate income and resources after divorce, and into your “golden years,” divorce may not offer the fresh start for which you hope. At Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield, we are aware of and sensitive to the unique financial considerations involved in divorces occurring later in life, and we are committed to achieving our clients’ financial goals for their futures into their golden years.
Division of marital property is often complicated in longer-term marriages. Older couples generally have had time to accumulate more assets, and those assets may be more complex in nature, such as business interests, retirement plans, investments, and real estate. Determining an accurate value for certain assets can be thought-provoking, as is ascertaining the tax consequences of allocating particular property in a divorce settlement.
Consider the fact that two assets which appear to have equal value at the time of divorce may offer different benefits and burdens going forward: one may come with a greater tax bill, or may depreciate in value while the other asset appreciates, or is more liquid. In order to make a truly informed decision regarding a divorce settlement, you must have an attorney who understands these issues and can explain the implications of each financial decision.
The attorneys of Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield have consistently been named among the top divorce attorneys in the area by prominent publications in Maryland and the District of Columbia, including recognition for dealing with complicated tax issues. One of the firm’s attorneys has also been recognized by Worth magazine as one of the top hundred attorneys in the United States for the needs of affluent clientele.
Regardless of the size of your marital estate, you deserve counsel that understands not only the financial but personal challenges you face in a divorce later in life. Our attorneys will advise you with clarity and compassion, and advocate for you with strength and strategy. We invite you to contact Strickler, Platnick & Hatfield to schedule a consultation regarding your unique situation.