Divorce For Georgia Seniors Or “Gray Divorces”
Statistics from the Pew Research Center show that while the overall divorce rate has declined over the past 20 years, it has almost doubled for the segment of the population over age 50 in the past three decades. Many of the reasons that a couple over the age of 50 might seek a divorce are the same as they are for younger couples – the spouses may simply have grown apart, or there may have been infidelity or other wrongdoing. There are other factors specific to couples over 50 that help explain this trend. For example, many people hold off on divorcing until they feel financially stable enough to do so. This tends to occur more frequently with women. Moreover, a shift may be occurring within this age group — women between the ages of 40 to 69 now initiate a divorce approximately 66 percent of the time, which may indicate that women in this age range are currently feeling more financially independent. Additionally, couples with children may decide to postpone a divorce until after their children are grown. One or both spouses aren’t happy in the marriage, but they choose not to divorce until their children are raised. At the same time, some couples discover that after their adult children leave the family home, they no longer share the same interest and goals and their marriage is no longer strong enough to survive. For some couples, the dramatic change in lifestyle at retirement can negatively affect the marriage. Some retired couples find that the increase in time spent together is not a source of happiness, or that personal interests in retirement are no longer compatible.
Not The Same Over 50
Regardless of the reason or reasons leading to the divorce, the effects matter more than the reasons – divorce will affect those over 50 differently than it will affect those in their 20s and 30s, with positives and negatives happening for both age groups.
One of the most common differences between divorcing at 30 and divorcing at 60, for example, is that estate planning is usually a much more immediate concern for those divorcing later in life than it is for younger couples. This is compounded by the reality of fixed incomes. Younger people have more time and ability to find new employment if necessary and to rebuild from the financial effects of dividing assets and debts following a divorce. However, between ageism in the workplace (approximately 20 percent of those surveyed by the American Association of Retired People [AARP] stated that they had been turned down for employment due to age) and previous financial obligations, older divorced workers can have a difficult time making ends meet unless a reasonable and fair asset distribution comes out of the divorce decree or settlement agreement.
Other Issues Unique to Gray Divorces
In some cases, a spouse is entitled to benefits based on his/her spouse’s social security, depending on the duration of the marriage and each spouse’s income. However, a subsequent remarriage will stop any spousal social security benefits.
Divorcing when you’re closer to retirement can result in a less comfortable retirement than originally planned for by each spouse after the marital estate is divided. You may find that you need to access your retirement funds early. You may need to prepare to make decisions about delaying retirement, increasing your retirement savings, or retiring with a different lifestyle than you had originally planned.
Income And Spousal Support
When a marriage ends, especially a long-term marriage, there are many issues surrounding income. How will each spouse maintain an income stream? Will it require rejoining the workforce, paying or receiving spousal support (alimony), or splitting a fixed income if you’re retired?
Division Of Assets
Divorces later in life often involve more significant assets. The division of property, both marital property and separate property, will be subject to several considerations, including how close each person is to retirement, the length of the marriage, the ability to obtain or maintain gainful employment, and more.
In a gray divorce, it is critical to address both health and life insurance issues. This includes each person’s ability to afford health insurance. To be able to remain on a spouse’s employer provided health insurance plan, a legal separation instead of divorce is a possibility to be discussed.
As people get older, there is an increased chance that competency may be an issue affecting that person’s ability to represent their own best interests. In such a situation, an attorney or the court may wish to have competency proved or take other measures, such as appointing a Guardian ad Litem, to protect the rights of a party who is found not competent.
Issues surrounding getting older, such as facing the prospect of long-term care and preparing for one’s final wishes, often need to be considered in a gray divorce. Updating your estate plan both during and after the divorce is advised, as well as planning for the provisions and costs of long-term medical care, should it be required.
Contact An Atlanta Divorce Attorney
More and more people, especially women, are finding it easier to divorce their partners even at an advanced age, seeking more freedom. However, there are questions that can come along with that life change, and calling an experienced Atlanta divorce attorney to try and get them answered is an important step. Buckhead Family Law has experience handling divorces for couples of all ages, and will know the right questions to ask and answer. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.