While divorce is always difficult, no matter the circumstances, finding yourself in the middle of a divorce when you are in your fifties or sixties comes with its own set of issues. In fact, many couples who have contemplated divorce during their middle ages actually end up staying together due largely to financial considerations. While this age group rarely stays together because of the children—the children are mostly out of the home by now—they have likely been together long enough that their finances and assets are completely entangled, and divorce means one or both of them may end up struggling to get by. This being said, divorce rates are actually climbing among seniors, and although the various studies differ to some extent some believe that the divorce rates among seniors has nearly doubled in the past two decades.
The “Non-Employable” Spouse?
Many times one spouse, most often the wife, is put in the position of being virtually non-employable due to the fact that she has spent the past thirty years raising children, and taking care of the home and her husband. This puts her in the difficult position of having accrued no Social Security benefits on her own as well as no employment history to aid her in finding a means of support. A spouse who is 62 or older, however, and not remarried is entitled to receive Social Security benefits on the account of the ex-spouse as long as the marriage lasted at least ten years, and at least two years have elapsed since the divorce. Some states will award permanent maintenance to the non-employable spouse, recognizing they gave up their working years in order to support their spouse’s career.
Dividing the Pension Plan
Those in this age bracket have likely accrued a certain level of pension benefits, and so long as one spouse has been awarded a portion of these benefits, then the other can reduce their own retirement benefits so that upon his or her death the ex-spouse will receive benefits from the pension plan for the remainder of their life. Since women typically live around seven years longer than men, this can be an important financial consideration during a divorce. In most states ex-spouses are entitled to a portion of the other’s pension which was earned during the marriage.
Other Financial Considerations
Because those in this age group have generally been married for a considerable length of time, and have acquired a sizeable amount of assets, there is naturally more at stake in a divorce. Seniors generally have a long work history, own some real estate, have had life insurance for a considerable amount of time and have retirement accounts. It can be much more difficult to recover if financial mistakes are made during the divorce—there is simply less time to make a comeback from a poor money decision.
Many divorcing couples of this age don’t think about factoring in the tax impact on their retirement account, and often forget to consider Social Security as well. It’s crucial that you hire a competent divorce attorney who is well-versed in your particular state laws to ensure you don’t lose assets you can never recover. Health insurance may be a huge factor in your divorce as well, especially if you were the spouse who worked at home, and had coverage under your husband’s policy. See if you can work continued health coverage into your divorce settlement as it is truly a monumental factor.
Fear of Being Alone
At this age, many seniors put off or even change their minds about divorce simply from the fear of being alone. They recognize that they are no longer considered to be in the “prime” of their lives and that can be a rude wake-up call. They think about the possibility of becoming ill and having no one to look after them, or worry about being lonely or unable to provide financially for themselves. Going it alone can certainly be daunting, whether you were the spouse who wanted the divorce or not. Even if you are unhappy in your marriage there is a certain security in having been with one person for thirty, forty, or even fifty years. Many people may have actually even forgotten the person the once were because they have been a “couple” for so long.
If you are over fifty and going through a divorce, don’t do it alone. Seek out others who are in the same position as you, and look into divorce counseling. Although you may not feel comfortable discussing your personal issues, divorce counseling can offer some real benefits, not the least of which is to help you express your feelings and boost your self –esteem. Most of all, stay busy and keep your mind occupied—it’s always better to strive for strength and resourcefulness as opposed to moping around miserably for the next few years.
The McLeod Law Firm, P.C. provides quality legal representation for its clients across North Georgia including Hall County, Dawson County, Forsyth County and Gwinnett County. Call today for answers to your important divorce law questions.