Our office has handled and seen divorce from almost every age range. We have helped every from 18-90. It may seem surprising to see couples over the age of 50 going through a divorce especially when they have been together 20-30 years or more. However, while divorce in general has declined divorce for those over 50 has increased.
The Wall Street Journal published a very interesting article on March 3, 2012 “The Gray Divorces”, which reported that the divorce rate for people age 50 and over, has doubled in the past two decades. Although the national divorce rates have declined, since spiking in the 1980’s.
If you have been unhappy in your marriage for years, and the thought of spending your remaining years with a person who makes you so unhappy, you may feel a new energy and excitement by the idea of starting a new life without that person.
Not too long ago I had a conversation with an eighty-year old man who confessed that he had never loved his wife and that the only reason he married her was he had felt sorry for her. He told me that he had tried to love her but she never liked to be touched by him and that the only time they were ever together physically is when they made their children.
His wife’s mother had told her was that to do otherwise was dirty. This man had finally met someone who loved him and liked to be touched by him. He said he was the happiest he had been in over 50 years.
That is one scenario. However, what about the other side you are settling into your golden years with your spouse, only to be told by your spouse that they want a divorce. you may feel like your world has been turned upside down. In either scenario, a divorce after 50 has its own unique challenges that divorces for younger couples does not share.
What is different about divorce after 50?
Some unique challenges for a couple divorcing after 50 include:
- Decades of history together, with mutual friends, and family members.
- the Kids
- Finances after 50
Decades of History
Couples that divorce later in life usually have more history not only together but with mutual friends and with their families. This mutual history can make going through a divorce and being newly divorced challenging.
Even though you may have divorced your spouse does not mean they are going to disappear from your life. One example is that on my wifes side of the family she had an Uncle who got divorced and his Ex still got invited to family events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. He found this interaction with his Ex awkward and stopped going until they stopped inviting her.
This may seem like common sense but I have observed the same thing in cases I have handled you may be ready to separate from your spouse but your family may love and have bonded with your spouse and not be ready to separate. Remember they have decades together of history together.
Or if you are not the spouse that wanted the divorce and you are now single what are you supposed to do? How are you supposed to act? This was what the Uncle in the above scenario experienced. He had not wanted the divorce and it took him several years to recover.
Even if your children are grown does not mean the divorce will not impact your kids or make their suffering any less. Just because your children are grown when you divorce does not mean that they will not be hurt.
I had a friend whose father filed for divorce not long after he started college. The divorce rocked his world and he did not talk to his father if he could help it for years. He almost did not invite his father to his own wedding.
As difficult as dealing with all of these emotional issues will be, one of the most significant impact that divorce over 50 will have on your life is the financial strain that divorce inevitably brings with it.
The Financial Impact of Divorce After 50
Getting a divorce is expensive no matter how old you are. However, generally the older you are, the more complicated your finances are. For example, when you are middle age you may have:
- a house
- several vehicles
- some retirement accounts
- a mortgage
- car loans
- credit card bills
- student loans either yours or your children’s
- perhaps a family business
- Less time to recover financially from a divorce
These various assets and debts can make your divorce more financially complicated. These financial complications generally also mean that your divorce will be more expensive as well. Something also to be cognizant of is that divorce after 50 means you have less time to recover financially after you are divorced. There will be less time to:
- Put away for retirement or
- Bounce back from bad investments
- Which means risky higher return investments are even riskier
- Less time to go back to school to get degree or new to degree in order to switch careers
Tips for Dealing with a divorce after 50 to lessen the impact
- Seek professional help
- Consider alternatives to litigation
- Take the time to understand your finance before and after the divorce
- Do not ignore tax on retirement funds
- Do not overvalue alimony or under value social security
- Accept that your lifestyle after the divorce will be different
- consider getting a job as soon as possible
Get professional help
In my blog article “6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case” one of the things that I list is taking no action and not seeking legal help. This is even more true later in your life because you have way more to lose than your younger predecessor.
It is a good idea to hire:
- divorce lawyer
- a financial adviser, preferably one who is also a certified divorce financial planner and if needed
- a therapist or to start going to a divorce support group
Consider alternative dispute resolution
My firm generally encourages our clients to settle their case out of court through mediation when possible because generally:
- It saves time
- It saves money
- Different more collaborative scenarios can be explored
This even more important when divorcing over 50 with the limited and resources you have left spending years and money in and out court can seem especially unpleasant.
Take the time to understand your finance before and after the divorce
An important part of any divorce is the division of marital assets. Part of any successful division of property includes looking how you will be impacted after a divorce. An example of this has been when I have clients insist on fight over the house. Sometimes this was because of settlement reasons or because they could not stand the idea of their ex getting the house.
On more then one occasion when they have “won” the house they have regretted it because:
- They realized they could no longer afford the house or
- It meant giving up some other possibly more asset to get the house
It is import understand your total financial picture before you agree to any divorce settlement. This means thinking through agreement and its impact on your life after the divorce.
Do not ignore tax on retirement funds
Not all assets are created equal when you are dividing them. This is because for some retirement account such as 401K’s money is taxed upon withdrawal, the real value of the account is only about 65% of what the statement says.
This miscalculation can hurt if it is not accounted for when dividing up marital assets. For example, if one spouse takes a savings account the other take the retirement fund on paper they may look equivalent but are not. One possible suggestion could be negotiating for a larger portion of other share assets to make the division more equitable.
Do not place to high a value on alimony or low a value on social security
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 will consider:
- 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 sufficient income
However, alimony is not always granted after long-term marriages in Texas. Counting on monthly payments from an ex-spouse gets riskier every year after 50 this is because the chance of your Ex dying increases the older they get. One way to protect against this is to negotiate for a life insurance policy on your ex one that you own and control so you can be certain your ex does not make any changes.
Social Security is frequently undervalued in divorce negotiations. If the couple was:
- married for at least 10 years
- one spouse is entitled to the benefits of the other at age 62 as long
- they remain unmarried
This is something to keep in mind for a couple reasons:
- If you have only been married for 9 months and some change you might want to delay the divorce until you have been married for at least 10 years.
- This is also something to be aware of if you are planning on remarrying at some point after the divorce.
This is something remember to figure out and discuss with your divorce lawyer.
Accept that your lifestyle after the divorce will be different
Many people believe that after they divorce they are entitled to continue to live at the same level of lifestyle they have grown accustom. Unfortunately for many this will not be the case. For many older couples this would have been true despite the divorce. This is because often when a couple retires their lifestyle takes hit because they no longer have income coming in from employment. When you add a divorce and division of assets into the mix things go from bad to worse.
Things to expect include:
- You may have to reduce expenses
- learn to budget.
- Retirement may need to postponed
These things must take place immediately to help get through the divorce and then you can reevaluate where you are after.
Consider getting a job as soon as possible
You may need to reenter the work place after your divorce. It may be a good idea not to wait until your divorced to start looking. If you need to get a degree or training it is probably a good idea to think about:
- a program where you make the highest amount of income in the least amount of time.
- However, you should balance that with something you can be happy doing.
You should consider a job even if you will alimony after your divorce. The more you are able to earn on your own the further your assets and alimony will go.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Key Elements of a Divorce for persons over the age of 50
- 7 Tips for Divorcing After Age 50 in Texas
- Divorcing After Age 50 in Texas: What it Can Mean for You and Your Spouse
- 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?
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Does it Matter who Files First in a Texas Divorce?
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.
Our 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, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.