Known as "gray divorces," marital dissolution of couples over the age of fifty are on the
rise in our country. While a
divorce is an especially stressful and emotion laden time for any couple, it can
be especially so for people over fifty.
During a life-stage where they had previously contemplated settling in
and preparing for a post-retirement reward after years of working, a separating
couple must now contemplate how to best prepare themselves for some hardships.
Some of the considerations that divorcing couples over the age of 50 include:
- What valuable or sentimental assets should they keep such as the family home.
- The availability of retirement benefits or social security.
- How should retirement accounts be divided.
- Spousal Support & Alimony
- Health Insurance
Updating or obtaining a will
One difference in a
gray divorce is that spouses generally do not have to worry about
child custody and child support. However, there may be a greater focus on
alimony and a just and right division of property. In many cases, there is one
spouse who earns less is very financially dependent on another spouse’s
income. In these case they will be facing a major lifestyle adjustment
which often includes finding employment.
Property and Assets
It is the experience of the attorneys at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
that people, unfortunately, do not typically have all that much money
saved even by time they are older than fifty years of age. This is a troubling
issue that only makes it more important to protect what a person does
have and ensure what they receive (in terms of property and assets) in
a divorce is fair and equitable.
Starting with a basic necessity like a house- if the house a person shares
with their spouse is not paid off then the parties have a decision to
make. Whether one spouse or the other is able to refinance a mortgage
into their name only is a primary factor in deciding who may remain in
the house and who will need to find another place to lay their head at
night. That's not to mention anything about the emotional attachment
that usually exists between a longtime home and its occupants.
With retirement either right around the corner or at least in sight, divorcing
people over fifty need to be cognizant of how divorce can affect retirement
accounts. Like other forms of community property, spouses are entitled
to a share (read, fifty percent) of the others' retirement account.
Funds that were contributed and any losses and gains therein during the
course of the marriage are fair game and in play during settlement negotiations.
It is critical for an attorney to be aware of what was in a person's
retirement account at the time the parties married, as anything contributed
prior to the date of marriage is the separate property of the account
For many of our clients over 50, outside of the family home retirement
accounts may be their most significant asset. That makes it very important
these accounts are valued accurately. Retirement accounts true value may
be less than their balance.
This is because may retirement accounts are taxed upon withdrawal, making
the accounts value only about 65% of what the statement says. Once this
is realized this may change how a property division should be negotiated.
If one spouse gets the house and the other a the retirement account it
may look even on paper when in reality it is very different.
We are frequently asked about the effect of social security benefits in
Social security benefits are not a divisible asset upon divorce. However, like other separate property
assets social security benefits can be considered when dividing up community
property assets in a divorce.
Spousal Support & Alimony
Spousal support is often an important issue in
gray divorces. This is generally because one spouse has been out of the workforce for
a number of years. This is a fact dependent issue where it will a court
- In most cases the party asking for post-divorce spousal support will be
required to have to have been married to you for at least 10 years or longer
- The requesting party in most case needs to demonstrate they are unable
to earn sufficient income to meet their minimal needs
- The requesting party must demonstrate they have made a diligent effort
to earn sufficient income or develop skills to do so
Other reason a spouse can ask for post-divorce spousal support include:
- the other spouse has committed family violence; or
- the requesting spouse has an incapacitating disability; or
- a child of the marriage (of any age) has a physical or mental disability
that prevents the spouse who cares for and supervises the child from earning
Debts of post-fifty couples are very relevant in considering the full picture
in a divorce. Debts don't just mean credit card, it can also mean
mortgage debt and car note(s).
As mentioned previously if both spouse’s names appear on a note then
the home or vehicle will need to be:
- refinanced into one spouse's name or
For the spouse who is getting their name off the debt-ridden item, it's
all about minimizing liability. That person should not be responsible
for the failure to make a payment on time or for depreciation in the item's
value. There are specific legal mechanisms in place to ensure that this
can occur and having an experienced family law attorney in your corner
can help tremendously.
This is can be one of the most difficult problems that divorcing spouses
face between the ages of 55-65 years old. If both spouses work and have
separate health insurance policies, there may not be a problem.
However, if a spouse is self-employed or unemployed this could be a difficult
issue. COBRA insurance is generally available through your former spouse
employer for 36 months after a divorce. This may be an option but it often
an expensive option. I generally bring up health insurance in our first
consult and encourage my clients to start thinking about looking into
their individual health insurance options policy early in the divorce process.
Wills and Other Important Paperwork
Finally, clients going through a divorce may want to consider updating or
getting a will. You should also update all the important legal paperwork that established
during your marriage. This includes bank accounts and beneficiary designations.
If this is not done it is very likely with their current estate plan or
lack of one their spouse will receive the majority of the remaining marital estate.
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan represent persons of all
ages as they work through a divorce. While it is not a pleasant or fun
process, it is vitally important to you and your life moving forward.
Contact our office today to learn more about how our office can help you
achieve a successful golden age divorce.
If you want to know more about what you can do,
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“16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 7 Tips for Divorcing After Age 50 in Texas
- Texas Divorce and Retirement & Employment Benefits by the Numbers
Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
- Will My Spouse Get Part of My Retirement in Our Texas Divorce?
- Husband Loves His Wife and Wants a Divorce in Texas “On Paper”
for Strategic Financial Reasons?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children
and families. If you have questions regarding
divorce, it's important to speak with one of our
Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and
developing a strategy to meet those goals.
Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online
form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles
Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein,
The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including
Fort Bend County and