One of the questions that those of us in the family law field began asking ourselves at the beginning of this coronavirus pandemic was what impact the pandemic would have on our state's divorce rate in the divorce rate of people across the United States. It's pretty established that tough times cause financial problems for people and cause the divorce rates to go up. This is in addition to issues and increases with domestic violence, child abuse, and a host of other side effects to not only a virus in pandemic itself but our government's response to the virus in a pandemic. It seems that one bad thing brings about another in reasonably quick succession. As a result, people have to be vigilant during these times, yourself and myself included.
When we talk about getting a divorce, I think most of us have in mind a middle-aged couple who could not make the marriage work any longer. We have already talked about a number of the reasons why this may be and how some unions are better equipped for the challenges that come about due to a pandemic or bumps in the road of life. We can talk about the specific reasons why people get divorced in another blog post. Still, for today's blog post, I would like to focus on one particular subset of divorces that have seen an increase in occurrence during the last decade or so. I am talking about gray divorces or golden years divorces.
I would define a great divorce as a divorce that occurs between couples over the age of 55. Typically, these folks have more working years behind them than in front of them and our thinking about retirement. In addition, these folks usually do not have children under the age of 18 at home and are more or less concerned, as a result, in making sure that their financial states are solid and protected after the divorce. If this describes you, then today's bar post is a good one to pay close attention to.
While every family and every divorce is different, certain aspects of a gray divorce are common for whoever is dealing with one. These threads that bind many Gray divorces together are what we will discuss today in our blog post. I understand that your circumstances may be relatively unique and may not be entirely covered by what we discussed in our blog post today. If that is the case, then I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to discuss the specifics of your life so that we can better guide you and discuss how our law office can help you achieve the goals you have in your divorce.
Making sure your four walls are protected in a great divorce paragraph, we can discuss all sorts of high minded in elaborate scenarios for your finances in a great divorce but ultimately, what I want to make sure first of all is that your four walls are protected as you head into a post-divorce life in your 50s, 60s or beyond. In a way, this would be the same sort of goal setting that we would have for you even if you were not getting a divorce. We have all heard people who retire or are forced to retire for health reasons who are not ready for retirement and therefore have to scrimp and save to get by in their golden years.
You don't want that to be you, and I think it is safe to say that the odds or financial problems for a person in your age bracket would increase for you to get a divorce later in life. That's not to say you should go running for the hills and be overly concerned about your life from a financial perspective if you were to get into this. However, it does mean that you need to be prepared to have a plan in place on how to deal with these issues so that you are not left with a lot of questions you need to answer after your divorce has completed itself. That is the worst time to ask questions about his divorce whatever all your questions are answered by the time your divorce is done so that the legal process can do its part to help you ease into a post-divorce world.
For starters, you want to make sure that the essentials in your life: shelter, food, transportation, utilities, and things of that nature are covered. If you can't be sure that your necessities are taken care of, you cannot literally or figuratively afford to think about loftier goals like retirement savings or investments. Make sure that you have your essentials covered, and you can build a solid financial foundation from that starting point.
For most of you reading this blog post, that means you need to consider your immediate streams of income and how you are going to afford to pay for these items in your post-divorce life. For instance, many of you reading this blog post may already be a working period if your health allows it; that will probably be your reality for at least the next few years. We will discuss retirement savings in a moment. Still, you should consider where your immediate income will come from because you do have primary concerns in your life about making sure you have a roof over your head and food in your pantry.
If you are not working, then you have some options to consider. The first option for you to consider would be whether or not you have the money to go back to work. Many of you reading this blog post may have been a stay-at-home parent or spouse for many years and have not worked in some time; that's OK. There are many jobs in the economy that you can slide into without any experience or even having worked recently. These are not jobs you may necessarily want to work in forever, but when you have an immediate need for shelter, food, and things of that nature, the need to perform will override the desirability of a particular job.
Once you have established how you will pay for the necessities of life in the short term after your divorce, you can consider your options at that stage. Would you be interested in going back to school? Getting a college degree or even an associate degree that allows you to gain a better-paying job is not out of the realm of possibilities at all. However, you should consider your career goals and determine whether or not you need an advanced degree. There is easy money available if you seek it in terms of loans to go to school, but you should consider whether or not you even need to go back to school to get a better-paying job.
Suppose you believe that you have immediate concerns about income and your ability to pay for the essentials of life. In that case, you should consider whether or not you can negotiate for contractual alimony with your spouse negotiations in your divorce. Contractual alimony is an agreement between you and your spouse for them to pay you a certain sum of support after the divorce for a specific time. Keep in mind that your spouse has to be in a position where they can pay you to support for it to be reasonable for you to ask. Make sure that their financial disclosures in the divorce are accurate and complete so that you can gauge whether or not our request for exceptional support is even worth discussing.
Additionally, if your case goes to a trial, you may request what is called special maintenance from a judge. Spousal maintenance is similar to contractual alimony in that it is spousal support paid to you after a divorce. Still, the difference is that this type of spousal support is ordered by a judge rather than agreed to in mediation. A judge will determine what your relative financial needs are and will term and whether or not your spouse can afford to pay you anything in the way of support. Keep in mind that there are limits to special agents that can be ordered, and you should talk to your attorney about those limits.
Long term financial concerns in a gray divorce
Once you have gotten past the immediate concerns of taking care of your four walls after a divorce, you can begin to think about loftier goals in terms of your finances. I think the most pressing concern that most people have regarding their long-term financial success is retirement savings. In talking with people involved with family law cases, I can tell you that almost no one is satisfied with their retirement savings.
A person could have millions of dollars or have $10 in when asked about retirement; almost nobody will tell you that they are delighted with what they have. One of the realities of getting divorced in your Golden years means that you risk losing out on retirement savings. Whether that means your retirement benefits may be divided between you and your spouse, or you may not be able to request as much in the way of retirement as you would like either way, your retirement savings will likely go down due to your divorce.
If you are a person who is getting divorced and are nearing retirement age, then you should consider your alternatives to dividing up retirement in your divorce. For instance, are there other financial avenues for your spouse to be made whole as far as dividing up the community estate is concerned that would allow you to retain your retirement savings? For instance, if you are worried about having enough money in retirement to be able to retire at the desired age you would like, you can consider whether or not your spouse would be willing to walk away with personal property, real estate, or other assets instead of receiving a portion of your retirement account.
As discussed in prior portions of today's blog post, having options and being in a good financial position are definite benefits for you in a divorce. The fewer options you have, the more likely you may feel desperate or motivated to make a decision that may not be in your best financial interest. The best thing you can do regarding maintaining your retirement and keeping an eye on your long-term financial goals would be to discuss your concerns with your family law attorney at the beginning of your case. Doing so will allow your attorney to focus on your goals and concerns and develop a plan for you all to follow through with as your divorce gets closer and closer to the finish line.
In conclusion, getting a divorce in your Golden years is not something that should scare or intimidate me. If you believe that you and your spouse have a not salvageable marriage and have gone through the trouble of attempting to save the marriage previously, then a divorce may be best for you and your family. In that case, make sure you are intentional and crystal clear but developing goals in your case, and you can have a just, fair, and tolerable result in your case.
Questions about Gray's divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultation six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how the Law Office of Bryan Fagan may best serve you and your family during this time in your life.