Contrary to popular expectations, the divorce rate for most Americans has remained fairly constant for the last twenty years, with one exception: the divorce rate for people over the age of fifty has doubled. Divorces that occur later in life often involve a number of special issues, which create different priorities and challenges than those found in other cases.
Not surprisingly, retirement funds and pension plans can play a much bigger role in later-in-life divorces than they do in other cases. Often in later-in-life divorces these investments have had more time to grow and their benefits will become available sooner, if they are not already. In some cases, retirement plans may even be the primary source of income for the parties, and the source of any support that may be ordered by the courts.
Spousal support and healthcare concerns are important in any divorce, but they can be especially important in later-in-life divorces. In many other divorce cases, spousal support is often treated as a temporary boost, to help the recipient to stand on their own. But in later-in-life divorces, there is a greater chance that spousal support will be an important and permanent result of the divorce, because it may no longer be possible for a stay-at-home spouse to start a new career, and it is more likely that the marriage was of long duration. Spousal support and healthcare coverage can have an effect on each other during and after a later-in-life divorce, often in ways that are counter-intuitive, especially if government healthcare is involved. Our firm has the knowledge and experience necessary to help navigate through these interactions.
Property issues can also become more complicated in later-in-life divorces. Individuals seeking a divorce after the age of fifty are less likely to have separate assets, independent debt, or detailed financial records that cover the entire length of the marriage. At the same time, they are more likely to have substantial assets than younger couples, who may only be just embarking on their careers.
Additionally, divorces that occur later in life may involve individuals who have been married more than once in their lives, and who may have children from a prior marriage. In such cases, it is critical to have someone in your corner who is knowledgeable and will not only defend your rights but also ensure that the rights of your children are protected.
For more on the special issues of later-in-life divorces, see our cover article, recently published in the Valley Lawyer magazine, beginning on page 30, here: PDF