Divorce is hard at any age, but it’s especially challenging when you have to make decisions about dividing assets and debts from a marriage that may have lasted decades. Whether you are retired or still working, a gray divorce brings unique challenges. Read on to learn how to prepare.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is not intended to be legal advice. You should always talk to an attorney who is skilled in family law matters about your unique situation.
What is a gray divorce?
Divorce rates in general have gone down in recent years, except in one group of people. The divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 has nearly doubled since the 1990s. For couples over the age of 65, they have tripled. People sometimes refer to a divorce at age 50 or older as a “gray divorce.”
You may feel like the marriage has been broken for a long time. On the other hand, perhaps you just came to the realization that you would be happier going separate ways. Whatever the reason, a divorce at this time in your life can have its own unique challenges.
What are the challenges of a gray divorce?
Younger individuals going through a divorce often have underage children to consider. Custody battles and child support can make for a long and stressful separation.
A divorce at a later age comes with a different set of obstacles, however. If you’ve been married for a long time, you probably have a lot of combined assets, from multiple homes to retirement accounts.
Estate planning can also be tricky. You’ve most likely listed each other as powers of attorney, insurance beneficiaries, and much more. This is why it’s important to work with a skilled lawyer during a divorce. It will help you make sure you’ve covered everything.
How to prepare for a gray divorce: 5 steps
Divorce challenges can be frustrating and time consuming at any age; over 50, new and unique challenges arise. Here are 5 steps you’ll likely to need to take to help you prepare.
1. Find emotional support
Sometimes divorce leaves people feeling happier and healthier than ever before. This is especially true in marriages that have been troubled for years before the separation. However, it’s also normal to feel sad and alone. This is common for people who are going through a divorce after being married for many years or even decades. Finding emotional support can make you feel like you’re not alone.
You can reach out to a close friend, a family member, a pastor, or someone else you trust. If you want to get professional help, you can search for a therapist online. The Arizona Department of Health Services also provides a list of mental health professionals who offer sliding scale fees. Some of them provide services at reduced rates as well.
Psychology Today offers a free list of support groups organized by state. These groups allow you to meet in person with others in your situation. Many groups even have a specific focus on what may have led to the divorce, such as abuse or infidelity. You don’t need to face this alone.
2. Get legal help
After you have emotional support in place and are ready to start with the practical aspects of a divorce, it may be time to talk to an attorney.
If you’ve been married for a long time, navigating the process of a divorce can be complicated and stressful. An attorney can help prepare you for your future, while guiding you through the process.
3. Revise your estate planning documents
Next, you will likely want to separate and revise estate planning documents and update powers of attorney.
If something happens to you, the person who holds your power of attorney will make decisions on your behalf. If your previous spouse is not your choice for the person who will be in charge of choices regarding your care, you will want to make changes as soon as possible.
You may also want to change the beneficiaries on any life insurance policies you have. This will help ensure that if something happens to you, your benefits will go to the people you’ve chosen. That may be your children, other relatives, or even a close friend.
4. Review your retirement accounts in detail
This is often one of the hardest parts of a divorce that has lasted many years and is best done with an attorney’s help.
In Arizona, assets you acquire while married are generally community property, meaning both spouses own them equally regardless of how they are titled or in whose name they are held (A.R.S§ 25-211). That means you and your spouse may both be entitled to a portion of any retirements accounts held by either party when you divorce.
Depending on how your retirement money is divided in the divorce, you may need to use a qualified domestic relation order, also known as a QDRO, to make the necessary transfers.
If you are worried about getting your fair share of retirement accounts, you should work with an attorney who can assess your situation.
5. Know what to expect when it comes to spousal maintenance
As part of your divorce, you or your spouse may be required to pay spousal maintenance. For example, this may occur if one spouse is still working and the other spouse has little to no independent income or sufficient assets to provide for their reasonable needs following the divorce.
When determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, the court will consider factors like education, work history, standard of living, and much more. In Arizona (per A.R.S. §25-319), the court may award spousal maintenance if the marriage is one of significant duration (usually over 10 years) and the spouse requesting support:
– Does not have sufficient property to meet their needs
– Cannot become self-sufficient with employment
– Has made a significant contribution to the education or training of the other spouse
– Reduced their own income to help the other spouse work
Get help with a divorce after age 50
At ARTEMiS Law Firm, our lawyers can help you navigate the challenges of a divorce after 50.
Get help today by contacting one of our Arizona divorce lawyers today.Contact Us