What You Need to Know When Facing Divorce Later in Life

It may seem unlikely that many couples married for decades would decide to split. The reality, however, is that increasing numbers of adults are deciding to divorce later in life.

According to Bowling Green State University's National Center for Family & Marriage Research, during the past two decades the overall pace of divorces has slowed, but the rate has doubled for people over age 50. In 2008, roughly 300,000 couples over 50 divorced. If the current pace continues, an estimated 400,000 older couples will divorce in 2030.

A variety of factors may be responsible for the increase in later-life divorce, sometimes referred to as the "gray divorce." Potential reasons include the aging of the baby boomers, a longer life cycle, and less concern about the impact of divorce on older children.

The factors contributing to seniors divorcing may also be similar to the frequent reasons younger couples separate, like developing different goals and growing apart. Since many people expect to live longer, they don't want to waste their golden years in an empty marriage.

No matter what the reasons leading to a divorce , people separating later in life should be especially aware of several issues.

Division of Assets

It is likely that those over age fifty have more assets than younger couples. Older individuals usually have longer work histories, higher salaries, larger retirement accounts, and more real estate. The division of assets takes on increased importance since there is less time for individuals to recoup any losses. You should be aware of the income and investments you need to retire and live comfortably. If you are already retired, you want to consider whether the assets you will be awarded are significant enough to provide for your ongoing living expenses.

Support Payments and Life Insurance

A spouse who has been a stay-at-home parent, or out of the workforce for a number of years, may be awarded spousal support or alimony. Additionally, if children are still young, one spouse may receive child support payments from the other.

You should always make sure you have an adequate life insurance policy in place for the spouse generating income and paying spousal support or child support . Life insurance, however, is particularly important when individuals are older and the risk of death is higher. Also make sure the policy is large enough to cover other planned contributions, like your children's college tuition.

If you are the one receiving the support payments, you should own the life insurance policy yourself. If you are just listed as a beneficiary on your ex-spouse's policy, there is always the chance he or she may change the designation without your knowledge.

Social Security

Social Security benefits are another important consideration. After a couple is married for 10 years, at the age of 62, a spouse can collect on the other's Social Security benefits. Therefore, the lower-earning spouse can place a claim on the higher-earning spouse's larger benefits. If a spouse remarries, generally he or she is no longer eligible for this benefit. If your spouse may be collecting on your Social Security benefits, make sure to factor this into the division of assets or support payments.

Children and Estate Planning

If a couple's children are older, child custody may not be much of an issue. That doesn't mean, however, that nothing needs to be addressed regarding the kids. If a couple is planning to assist their children with college tuition or other expenses, they should make sure adequate resources are set aside in the division of assets to facilitate the desired contributions.

If you are planning to pass down assets to your children, make sure you have your wishes expressed in a will or trust. This includes designating who you want to control the inheritance your children would receive from you if they are still minors. If you are not comfortable with your ex-spouse handling your minor children's inheritance in your absence, make sure you specify other arrangements.

Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a divorce later in life, contact a knowledgeable family law attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer can guide you through the divorce process, advocate on your behalf during the division of assets, and work to ensure all your future needs are addressed. Contact Stange Law Firm, PC today to schedule a consultation at 855-805-0595 or online.