The youngest members of the Baby Boomer generation have reached their 50s, but they are not slowing down. Instead, they are looking for fulfillment, happiness, and love as they near retirement age. And some are getting divorced in their efforts to find it. While the divorce rate has decreased since its record high in the 80s, it has increased dramatically in the over-50 crowd. In fact, according to a Bowling Green State University study, the grey divorce rate more than doubled between 1990 (one in ten) and 2010 (one in four).
Why are Baby Boomers getting divorced?
A grey divorce often occurs after the children go off to college or take their first jobs and leave the parents alone in the empty nest.
Raising children together, working, and saving for retirement often kept spouses together through the years, but, in some cases, long-time partners are finding they have few interests in common and little emotional connection left to hold the marriage together.
It is interesting to note that most reports show an unfaithful spouse only rarely contributes to these splits, and instead the couple has simply grown apart as they have raised their children and focused on their careers.
What are some issues or challenges unique to grey divorces?
While child custody and child support are central in most divorces among younger couples, the children are grown and this is of no concern in the majority of grey divorces. There are, however, other challenges unique to a divorce after age 60. Primarily, this includes the split of:
- Home equity
- Retirement benefits
- Pension benefits
What about the house?
Many older couples raised their children in the family home and planned to stay there for the rest of their lives. In many cases, couples have paid off the mortgage and the house has a high amount of equity.
Figuring out how to divide this property — especially when one spouse wishes to remain in the home — is difficult. One spouse may buy the other’s share of the house or trade other assets of equal value.
What do I need to know about retirements and pensions?
By the time couples reach their 60s, they often have significant retirement savings, including:
- Pension plans
- 401(k) accounts
- Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
If you or your spouse acquired these accounts or contributed to them during the marriage, the law will consider them marital property. Because Pennsylvania and New Jersey are both equitable distribution states, you must divide all marital property in a fair and just way, regardless of who contributed to the funds.
In most cases, splitting retirement savings requires filing a special agreement known as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). The judge and all parties involved sign this agreement. After all parties sign, the administrator of the retirement plan will distribute the funds.
Your Petrelli Law attorney can help you understand equitable distribution, file your QDRO, and protect your assets in your grey divorce.
What about alimony and other spousal support in these marriages?
Courts are under no legal obligation to award alimony, but may be more apt to award it in longer marriages, especially when one spouse did not work or only worked for part of the marriage. The courts may find that it is unlikely the spouse will be able to find the work necessary to support him/herself so close to retirement age.
Courts may also grant spousal support if one partner has significant medical issues, requires ongoing personal or nursing care, or has a number of outstanding medical bills or ongoing medical needs.
It is important to note that, in addition to alimony, Social Security may play a role in the amount of money each spouse receives in a grey divorce. If your marriage lasted a decade or longer, you are eligible to draw Social Security based on your former spouse’s record when you turn 62. This does not reduce your former partner’s benefits, or affect them in any other way.
Are there other unique financial considerations?
People entering their senior years are often more concerned about healthcare and life insurance than their younger counterparts. If you work and your employer offers these benefits, there is little worry. For those who do not, however, paying for health insurance and life insurance as an older adult can get expensive.
If you are currently on your spouse’s insurance plan, but face divorce, look into your options for healthcare coverage and life insurance before you reach an agreement on property division, alimony, or other support. If you rely on alimony, you may also want to invest in a policy that protects you in the event that something happens to your former spouse.
How can Petrelli Law help with my grey divorce?
Petrelli Law understands the unique financial implications of divorce after 60, and can help protect your investments and your future during a split in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Contact us at 215-523-6900 to schedule a time to discuss your grey divorce.