Things to Think About if Divorcing After 50

Family law experts who examine divorce trends at the National Center for Family & Marriage Research state that married partners over 50 divorce at a much higher rate than do married couples generally. Over the past 20 years, they say, the divorce rate for 50-plus couples has approximately doubled, whereas it has actually decreased slightly for America’s married population overall.

Although it is not immediately clear why that is so, one factor does loom large in helping to explain the phenomenon: Baby boomers are, comparatively, a group that has readily embraced marriage; 50-somethings have often wed early and willingly divorced to marry again, with a not insubstantial number of them being on a third or even subsequent marriage as they approach 60.

With experience, divorce gets easier.

And with age advancing, the issues most relevant to divorce tend to change and become immediately pressing. Certain things loom larger in a 50-plus divorce than in a dissolution of a truly young couple.

Most fundamentally, financial security going forward is a core concern. “You have much less time to recover if mistakes are made,” says one divorce advisor. “There are no do-overs.”

That being so, 50-somethings are generally focused quite strongly on securing a good settlement in divorce, while at the same time avoiding a too-large outlay of assets and marital property to their soon-to-be ex.

Many financial advisors agree that the divorce focus should definitely consider the following:

•· Properly evaluating pre-tax retirement funds — One spouse might be receiving retirement accounts that on their surface look equal in value to the house that the other spouse is receiving, but it needs to be remembered that taxes will have to be paid on these accounts

•· Alimony and Social Security — Don’t overvalue the former (an ex-spouse over 50 could, frankly, have health issues and not have much longer to live; get a life insurance policy on the spouse in addition to an alimony award) and don’t undervalue the latter (see our March 15 blog post; entitlement to a former spouse’s Social Security benefits can be of critical importance, and many people are ignorant concerning eligibility and relevant rules)

•· Appropriate drafting by a professional to ensure that assets intended to be passed along to any children are not inappropriately disposed of to other parties — e.g., an ex’s future spouse or kids — down the road.

An experienced family law attorney is a good source to confer with regarding considerations that are particularly relevant to many couples that are divorcing past the age of 50.

Related Resource: “Divorce over 50: Three Mistakes to Avoid” March 23, 2011

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