Older Americans are divorcing at higher rates than ever before. Authorities speculate on many reasons for this trend, but one thing is certain: the need for experienced legal counsel. Certain legal issues tend to be particularly important for those ending their marriages over 50 and even older.
A knowledgeable Missouri family law attorney can provide sound legal advice and representation to position the older Missourian facing divorce to emerge from it in a secure position to face the golden years. In particular, a divorce lawyer who understands the intricacies of public benefits important to senior citizens like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid can be an asset to financial planning in older divorce.
Why the trend toward older divorces
Certain themes have emerged throughout the literature looking at the reasons behind the increase in so-called “gray divorce.” Some plausible explanations include:
- Baby boomers have new norms: the baby boom generation is reaching retirement age, and for them divorce – and remarriage – is more common and more accepted than in previous generations.
- Women are becoming more professionally and financially secure and less often need to stay in bad marriages for economic reasons.
- Our society places more and more emphasis on self-fulfillment and the right to personal happiness, making people less willing to stay in unfulfilling marriages.
- People have the ability to remain healthier longer and see themselves as living full lives into their golden years; sometimes divorce allows more happiness in those extra years of life.
Two sociologists at Bowling Green University released a groundbreaking study in 2009 on older divorce after reviewing census data concerning people over 50 years old. Major findings include:
- Since 1980, the rate of divorce has “more than doubled” among those in this population.
- One-quarter of those who divorce now are older than 50.
- A rise in second and subsequent marriages in the older population will accelerate the older divorce rate because the likelihood of divorce in a remarriage is higher than in a first one.
- Legal issues impacting older divorces
Obviously, as a person ages, health and money are increasingly important. When an older Missourian divorces, here are some of the more common legal issues that arise:
- Standard of living: not all older couples have enough money and assets to keep both spouses at the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, making property division an extremely important issue, since employment may no longer be desirable or possible.
- Insurance: provision for health, life and long-term care insurance should be a major goal.
- Retirement accounts: how pensions, 401ks and similar retirement accounts are divided can have a huge impact on financial security.
- Alimony: also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, alimony can be crucial for a spouse who worked little and relied on the other spouse for support during the marriage.
- Valuation: to keep property division fair and balanced, certain assets must be appraised or evaluated by experts in order to receive an appropriate value assignment.
- Tax issues: part of the question of what is a fair financial settlement needs to include an analysis of the future tax impact on each party.
Obtain knowledgeable legal advice
Any Missourian facing the possibility of divorce in the senior years should consult with a skilled dissolution of marriage lawyer to understand the unique issues likely to arise.