Separating When You're 55 Years or Older: What You Need to Know

According to Investopedia, divorce rates in the U.S. are declining… except for Americans who are over the age of 50. In fact, somewhat stunningly, a survey conducted by a Bowling Green State University professor found that one in four couples over the age of 50 will separate.

Researchers have generated a number of hypotheses to explain this peculiarity. Perhaps people are just living longer, so they want to “optimize” the latter half of life by finding better relationships. Perhaps these middle-aged Baby Boomer couples are less likely to compromise because of certain values instilled in them by the culture. Whatever the reason, if you’re considering getting divorced after the age of 55, you are definitely not alone. Here are a few things about the process to keep in mind:

You owe it to yourself to understand family finances. If you allowed your significant other to handle family finances, you need to learn about your budget, assets, debts and other financial considerations prior to separating, if possible. Where are your stocks, bonds, and other assets? How much debt do you collectively have? What kinds of retirement assets do you own? Could your soon-to-be-ex be hiding critical financial information?

There will likely be financial fall-out. Household income drops by approximately 25 percent for men following a divorce. For women, that drop is more precipitous – closer to 40 percent. Also, because women tend to live longer, they may find themselves learning to live with less.

You need to know when to fold ‘em. It can be tempting to try to hold on to assets like the family house following a divorce for sentimental reasons, but you need to consider your strategic interests dispassionately. For instance, winning the house could turn into a Pyrrhic victory. Paying for all the upkeep, landscaping, neighborhood association fees, and property taxes can keep you house poor. Talk to an experienced Maryland family law attorney to create a strategic plan to negotiate appropriate outcomes.

Good health is vital. You might be in for sticker shock if your spouse’s health insurance has been covering you. Consider the following three options:

  1. Sign up for coverage through your own employer.
  2. Enroll in your state’s healthcare exchange program through the Affordable Care Act.
  3. Pay for a 36-month continuation of your ex’s existing coverage through COBRA.

Age discrimination is a real thing. According to diverse research, older women often contend with serious age discrimination when they need to land jobs after divorce, particularly when they have spent a significant portion of their adult life at home taking care of family. A qualified attorney can suggest resources to help you retool and strategize to return to doing work that you find fulfilling and remunerative.

Taxes are inevitable. There is a tax bill attached to just about every financial decision you make during your divorce. To minimize the tax consequences and negotiate effective compromises with your spouse, game out various contingencies with your attorney and financial advisor. Ask a lot of questions throughout the process, like:

  • Should I take monthly alimony or a lump sum?
  • Should I keep the house or sell it?
  • How much (if any) of my spouse’s retirement will I be entitled to obtain and under what circumstances?

If it all seems like a confusing maze, the DiPietro Family Law Group team is available to answer questions about getting divorced after 55. Call us for a free and private case evaluation at (888) 530-4374.

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