In March 2013, the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University published a study on the divorce rate for couples who are over the age of 50. The researchers discovered that in the last 20 years, the divorce rate in the nation as a whole has gone down.
Meanwhile, the rate of divorce over 50 has doubled and now, one in four marriages of couples in that age group ends in what is also known as a grey divorce.
There are unique emotional issues that impact married couples over 50, but the biggest impact is in the financial area. Although division of assets and liabilities are part of every divorce, those nearing retirement age have less time to rebuild their nest egg.
For those who were unemployed during the marriage, but need to work after the grey divorce, there are fewer opportunities for them than there were when they were younger.
Divorce Over 50 Comes With Unique Emotional Issues
Divorces at older ages often come after a long-term marriage. Even if both parties agree a divorce is in their best interest, there may be a feeling of loss, along with invigoration that a new life awaits. Even when the empty nester couple has children who are no longer living at home, the children often express sorrow over the dissolution of their parent’s marriage.
Some singles relocate and others may lose some friends that were friends of both the husband and the wife. These emotions are normal, but need to be addressed in order to productively face the new life.
Grey Divorce Financial Issues
Statistics show that the cost of living for single people is 40-50 percent more than for married couples. Household income drops about 25 percent for men and 40 percent for women.
When a divorce comes in the later years, there is less time to make up the financial loss experienced with the division of assets through the divorce. Some major financial issues the 50+ couple deals with include, but are not limited to:
What to do with the house: Many couples over 50 own a home together, and whether or not to sell it is a big decision. There may be equity in the house they can share if they sell it, but there are benefits to homeownership, such as tax savings, that they will lose.
Beginning at age 62, a person is eligible for a reverse mortgage. On the other hand, if one person keeps the house, that person will be responsible for all upkeep and taxes. If the housing market goes down, that person will take the loss.
There may be tax benefits to both parties with a sale, and the timing of the sale may be important.
Retirement assets and liabilities: Couples aged 50+ may have more assets than younger couples, but they often have more debt. They generally have retirement accounts that have to be individually evaluated and divided equitably. To divide some retirement plans, such as a 401(k), a specific court order is required.
Social Security Benefits: Although Social Security benefits are not divided by the divorce court, it is important for each party to know the amount they expect to get at retirement. If a couple has been married at least 10 years, an ex-spouse may collect benefits based on the other spouse’s record without affecting the primary beneficiary.
With so many divorce after 50 financial issues that need resolution, grey divorce couples need the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to help them through the divorce process. Atlanta divorce lawyer Nancy Ghertner has been helping senior citizens with divorce for almost 30 years.
Nancy understands the unique complications and emotional upset that surround a mature divorce, and she is here to listen to your side of the story, and fight for your legal and financial rights so you will feel secure in retirement.