Young adults aren’t getting divorced as much as they used to, but older adults seem to be making up for those splits. The Pew Research Center finds senior divorce has more than doubled since 1990. A senior divorce involves couples splitting up after age 50.
Divorce is rarely easy. When you’re over 50 and considering divorce, there are different issues to consider. This article aims to educate you about the implications of senior divorce so you can make well-informed decisions.
Talk to a Senior Divorce Attorney
If you’re contemplating a senior divorce, spend 30 minutes with a member of our Family Law Team to discuss your circumstances and receive some general advice. Call 303-688-0944 to schedule this free case assessment, or click here if you’d like to make the appointment on your own.
Senior Divorce Has Unique Challenges
So-called gray divorces happen for many reasons. Empty-nesters may discover they have less in common. Others may be in search of greater contentment during their golden years. Greater financial independence has given more women the green light for divorce. And remarriages tend to end in divorce more often.
Whatever your reason for a senior divorce, you face different considerations than if you were separating earlier in life.
Financial Implications of Gray Divorce
Finances are a major concern in any divorce. But the scenarios are different for people over 50. With retirement looming, or possibly already underway, older couples have more post-divorce financial issues to weigh than their younger counterparts.
Retirement Funds are Vulnerable
By the time someone reaches their late 50s, their retirement accounts, hopefully, have amassed enough funds to live comfortably after they stop working.
Retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pension plans, are considered marital property in Colorado. Contributions you made to these kinds of accounts before you were married are considered separate property. In other words, the pre-marriage contributions are your property. However, generally, your spouse is entitled to the increased value of those pre-marriage contributions.
Any contributions made to these accounts after your marriage are subject to equitable distribution.
Additionally, even if your retirement accounts are not subject to division with your spouse, they are considered for purposes of establishing alimony. It’s important to note that a marital agreement you created could change any of this.
Did You Know?
Equitable distribution does not mean “split down the middle”? The courts actually define equitable distribution as “fair, but not necessarily equal.” If you and your spouse cannot agree to a settlement, the court will decide how your assets will be divided.
Social Security Benefits are at Risk
While Social Security benefits are not considered property to be divvied up like a 401(k), it is income.
Since an individual may be able to claim Social Security benefits based on their ex-spouse’s work record, instead of their own, it’s worthwhile to talk with a divorce attorney about how this potential income could affect your divorce.
Spousal Support Can Be Unpredictable
Spousal maintenance, sometimes called alimony or spousal support, carries more significance in a senior divorce. Before we delve into why that is, let’s take a quick look at how Colorado determines alimony.
Colorado uses a formula-based alimony guideline. State legislators adopted this guideline in an effort to even the alimony playing field. Before the formula guideline, spousal maintenance was awarded at the court’s discretion. That resulted in extreme ranges, from no alimony to thousands of dollars a month for life.
The current calculation takes into account each spouse’s income and the length of the marriage. However, judges still have the discretion to award maintenance that deviates from the formula.
In Colorado, lifetime maintenance can be awarded in marriages that lasted 20 years or more.
Since the state’s alimony guideline is just that, a guideline, older couples could receive what some would regard an unthinkable support order if the couple was younger.
For instance, a senior couple who have been married for say for six years could end up with a lifetime alimony order that could never be changed. If you’re married to someone who is not in a position to work or had little retirement savings before the marriage, a judge could award permanent spousal maintenance.
In Colorado, property or money acquired through inheritance is not considered marital property. The problem occurs when inheritance is combined with your marital assets.
Let’s say your parents left you $400,000 when they passed away. You decided the best way to use the funds was to put them toward the cabin you and your wife always dreamed of owning. During your divorce, it may be tough to distinguish that $400,000 of the cabin the two of you own together is actually yours.
Another example would be placing inheritance money in some kind of joint account, whether that’s a saving account or checking account. Again, the issue is that your inheritance comingled with marital money.
As you can see, the water can get quite murky when it comes to retaining your inheritance during a late-life divorce.
Your Children’s Inheritance
Another inheritance consideration is what you will leave your children after the divorce. Children in blended families are at risk of losing some or all of their inheritance in a late-life divorce.
If you and your spouse combined estates when you got married, much of the money you once intended to leave your children could end up with their former stepparent.
Get a Lawyer for Your Senior Divorce
As you can see, grey divorces have serious financial issues and the stakes are high. Generally speaking, older individuals have less time to replenish retirement accounts after divorce. As a result, you may have to change your lifestyle or even postpone retirement.
If you’re over 50 and facing divorce, Robinson & Henry’s divorce attorneys want to help you get a fair settlement. Call 303-688-0944 to set up a free case assessment or click here to schedule the meeting.