The divorce rate in the United States has been steadily decreasing in recent years. However, one age group has seen a tremendous spike. Divorce rate has nearly doubled for those in the baby boomer generation, affectionately known as “gray divorce”. The term refers to people who divorce later in life, after more than 20 or 30 years of marriage. There are particular challenges that arise when a couple gets divorced after multiple decades spent together. Senior citizens will have unique concerns that younger spouses don’t have, and may need the guidance of a San Jose divorce attorney. Here are a few important things older people should know while moving forward with gray divorce.
Find Out If Divorce Will Affect Your Social Security Payments
If getting divorced in your retirement years, it’s likely that Social Security is a large portion of your income. After divorce you may be eligible for as much as half of your former spouse’s Social Security benefits. The prerequisites for this include being married for at least 10 years, currently unmarried, and your own earnings benefit being less that half that of your former spouse. You may not be able to claim spousal benefits if you were married less than 10 years or if you remarry. Benefits may also be reduced if you start collecting before your target retirement age. Check with your local Social Security office for more help if you have questions.
Understand Your Retirement Benefits
It’s important to sort out whether your or your former spouse is entitled to a pension or any other financial benefits. Work with your former spouse or your employer to get a copy of your latest benefits statement. It’s also recommended to check the retirement accounts you’ve accumulated over the course of the marriage. There could be money sitting in an account that will need to be divided through mediation.
Be Prepared to Pay Alimony
Even if both parties are now on Social Security, alimony payments could still be negotiated in a gray divorce. If one spouse spent the majority of the marriage as the main breadwinner and the other stayed home with the house and family, alimony could still come into play all these years later. We encourage discussing these terms with an alimony lawyer to ensure your best interests are protected.
Discuss Who Will Keep the House
If there are still young children in your shared home, it’s typically the custodial parent that keeps the house in a divorce. If the kids are out of the house, it will likely make more financial sense to sell the house and get two smaller places after you’ve separated. However if either a partner or the kids have a personal attachment to the house, it’s important to have a discussion before opening negotiations with the help of an attorney. The same goes for all goods, furniture, and heirlooms within your shared home.
Talk to Your Children
Though your children may be grown and starting their own families, it can still be difficult to learn that their parents are getting divorced. Be open in your communication with your children and grandchildren, and do what you can to support them. You will likely be seeking their support as well.
Decide Who Will Get Custody of Your Pets
Retired couples are statistically more likely to have pets in their home than younger adults. If you are going through a divorce, it’s not practical to assume that you will continue to share time with your pets. Either you or your former spouse will probably take full ownership. Have a conversation about who the pet is closer to, as that will likely keep your pet happy through a change of scenery and lifestyle. If you are fighting to keep your furry friend, remember the financial commitment – pets often come with added costs and veterinary bills, so work those expenses into your post-divorce budget.
Consider Divorce Mediation
Divorce mediation is seen as a less complicated alternative to traditional divorce proceedings, especially for those getting divorced later in life. Some of the advantages to pursuing mediation include spending less money, less time, and saving yourself from some added stress. Experts say the average cost of a collaborative divorce is between $25,000 and $50,000. If the divorce is contested by one or both parties, it could end up costing upwards of $150,00. For those filing in their 50s or 60s, these price tags could put your retirement and sustained lifestyle at risk. Divorce mediation costs a lot less on average, between $7,000 and $10,000.
Mediation can also save a lot of time. Most mediation cases range from 4 to 5 months from start to finish, whereas litigated divorces can take up to three years in court to be finally resolved.
Focus on Creating a Positive Future
Divorce is not easy, especially after spending most of your lifetime with your spouse. Be kind to yourself and give yourself the space you need to mend and move forward. Keep positive through the process and think about a happier future on the other side of the divorce proceedings.