Many people perceive divorce as something that occurs in younger years, and past a certain point in life, it’s better to stay with your partner, even if you’re unhappy. That line of thinking appears to be changing. As lifespans increase with the help of modern medicine and technology, divorce rates among the baby boomer generation have begun to climb, as more older couples are realizing they have more time than they thought to explore what it means to be happy in their later years.
Later-Life Divorce Statistics
Although overall divorce rates have decreased, recent research shows that the divorce rate for couples aged 50 and up has actually increased significantly, doubling between 1990 and 2010. For those 65 and older, divorce rates tripled. Additionally, as many as one out of every four divorces were between couples aged 50 and up.
Further study shows a variety of reasons why later-life divorces are becoming more common. These include older couples recognizing that they’ve grown apart from one another, the increased individualism of the modern era, and a greater reluctance to remain trapped in an unhappy marriage for a long period of time. It also may be more common for older couples to begin re-evaluating their marital situations when major life changes happen such as when the children leave the house, reaching retirement age, a financial crisis, or in the face of declining health.
Common Late-Life Divorce Issues
The prospect of a late-life divorce can seem daunting, as it’s a little different than when younger couples with fewer assets decide to end a marriage. Familial ties can be deeper, finances can be deeply intertwined, and a lifetime’s worth of shared property can be at stake. Here are a few things to consider in your late-life divorce:
- Ownership of the house. Older couples are likely to own a family home. Who gets to keep the house in the divorce can become a point of contention due to age-related benefits of owning property. These can include eligibility for a reverse mortgage, tax benefits, and potential income from a rental property if you’re in need of cash.
- Retirement plan issues. Washington is a community property state, which means that most kinds of property that you or your spouse acquired after marriage belong to both of you in equal share—and that includes retirement accounts. Determining who gets what share can be difficult, and there can be tax penalties for early withdrawals if you haven’t quite reached retirement age yet. Talk to your attorney to find out of there are ways you can minimize the impact and keep as much of your retirement fund as possible.
- Social security benefits. If you were married more than ten years and are 62 or older, you may be able to claim a portion of your former spouse’s social security benefits after the divorce—and it won’t take away from your spouse’s benefits if you choose to do so. This is particularly advantageous if you were a homemaker or otherwise had significantly less income than your partner throughout your marriage.
You’ll only receive social security benefits from your spouse if the amount you would receive is more than you would receive with your own benefits. Further, you must remain unmarried for this benefit. Under similar rules, if your former spouse dies, you may be entitled to a survivor’s benefit of his entire social security amount.
Get Legal Help With Your Divorce Today
There’s a lot to think about with a later-life divorce. When you’re ready to talk to an attorney about your divorce, the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny is here to help. We understand the complex issues involved in later-life divorces, including dealing with complex estate plans and high-asset situations, and we’re here to assist you today.
To arrange a private consultation with an experienced attorney at our Bellevue office, call us, or use our contact form to send us an email.