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Gray Divorce: The Implications of Divorce for Individuals 50 and Older

September 10, 2015 | by

If a couple can make it through twenty years of marriage they can survive anything life throws at them, right? Not according to recent studies.  Individuals over the age of 50 are twice as likely to divorce as they were in 1990.  Roughly 1 and four people going through a divorce in the United States is over the age of 50. Nearly 1 in 10 is over the age of 64.  Such divorces have coined the title “gray divorces” and more than half are from first marriages. Gray Divorces are very different than divorce for individuals in their 30’s and 40’s. For this reason, a Gray Divorce requires a distinct legal approach.

The financial issues present during a gray divorce can be more complex than those faced by younger couples in the same situation. Couples experiencing divorce in their 50’s and 60’s are more likely to receive their income from retirement accounts and social security than full-time jobs. Retirement accounts, such as pension plans, 401(k) plans, and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), are generally treated as marital property and subject to division. Such division can be intricate, involving both state and federal laws.

The division of retirement accounts is executed by a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). It is important to understand that the QDRO and the divorce settlement agreement serve two distinct purposes, and both must be properly executed to receive a proper distribution. A settlement agreement often addresses division of retirement accounts but does not effectuate the actual division of the account. If the QDRO is not properly executed, one may not receive a distribution from his or her spouse’s IRA, pension, or 401(k). As this could be the only source of income, it is important to hire an attorney who is experienced and familiar with this process.

If you are in your 50s or 60s and considering divorce, it is also important to discuss the issue of health insurance with your attorney. Health insurance and medical expenses can become more costly later in life, so if you are currently under your spouse’s insurance plan, you will have to make alternate arrangements following divorce. If you qualify to receive alimony from your spouse, you should also consider an insurance policy that can protect you if your ex-spouse passes away.  There are various insurance policies to consider that may be of benefit based on your particular set of circumstances.

A gray divorce can seem even more immense because of assets acquired over a twenty or thirty year period. As with any divorce, the process can be emotional and difficult. Seek the advice of an experienced family law attorney about your situation so they can serve as your guide.

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