“Gray” Divorce: Separation or Divorce in Older Couples
The American Dream! You’ve married, raised a family, bought a house, put the kids through college. A few years later your children have grown, moved out, started careers and families of their own. Now the “empty nest” feeling of just you and your spouse alone in the home sets in.
Unfortunately, many older couples in this position are finding they no longer have the shared interests and goals they had earlier in life. This new awareness has created what many are calling the “gray divorce epidemic.”
According to a recent Pew Research study, while the American divorce rate has actually declined for every other age demographic, the divorce rate among U.S. adults ages 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990’s.
Contemplating a legal separation or uncontested divorce when you are an older couple brings with it specific financial issues to consider, discuss and negotiate. Ensuring a livable retirement income and fair access to the legally mandated Social Security funds for both marriage partners is essential. While divorcing at an older age can upend previous retirement plans and finances a carefully executed separation or divorce through mediation can make life livable for both parties.
Generally, couples who are aged 55 and older in long term marriages should think about:
1) Social Security-10 year rule: if you are married longer than 10 years, and divorce, you can collect ½ half of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits if it is higher than your Social Security benefit. This entitlement will not reduce your ex-spouse’s benefits
2)Health Insurance: consider a separation agreement until the spouse who needs health insurance is 65 and eligible for Medicare. You need to make sure that the health insurance you have will cover a spouse under a separation agreement. Please note that some small companies, (under 20 employees) aren’t required to provide COBRA.
3) Pensions: If a spouse is eligible to collect a pension or is already retired and collecting a pension, the other spouse is entitled to a share of the pension, typically 50%, that has been earned during the marriage. The pension is divided by an instrument called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order that requires the pension plan to give a certain share of the pension to the ex-spouse. To be fair to all parties involved, it is important to make sure that the non-monied spouse has a stream of income.
4) Spousal support (Maintenance): depending on the recipient spouse’s ability to work and to be self-supporting, courts may award maintenance up until age 67 when they are able to collect full Social Security benefits.
If you are in a long-term marriage and thinking about divorce it would be wise to consult with a professional trained and knowledgeable in these matters. At the New York Divorce Mediation Group, where we serve couples throughout Nassau, Suffolk, Queens, and Long Island, we are experienced in helping couples in long term marriages work through the challenges of a “gray divorce”. We can help you too.
(Read more at https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T065-C032-S014-the-true-cost-of-gray-divorce.html#poTQIcuHkWdGQlpV.99