Be aware of these important considerations when divorcing later in life
There's a reason gray hairs are sometimes referred to as "wisdom threads;" they tend to appear just as we're gaining hard-won wisdom about life and love. It turns out, some of that wisdom compels us to change direction in our love life, which is perhaps why the divorce rate among Baby Boomers is climbing. In fact, the U.S. Census Department reports that Americans over age 55 are divorcing at more than two times the rate of any other age group they surveyed. And that's certainly a trend we see here in the Coulee Region as well. The trend is known as "gray divorce." So if you're contemplating divorce after 55, you're certainly not alone.
The financial and personal implications of divorce after 55
"No matter how old or young we are, divorce typically comes with substantial legal and financial implications," family law attorney Tony Gingrasso explained. "But when it comes later in life can be even more complicated. That's why it's critical to have a trusted attorney on your side: someone who can serve as a knowledgeable resource and an advocate during a potentially challenging time."
Working with an experienced family law attorney can make all the difference in ensuring your long-term financial and personal well-being, which is particularly important as retirement nears. The considerations that are likely to arise during your divorce are many, and most of them can get complicated. Here are just some of the critical issues you may need to navigate.
1. Maintenance (also called alimony in other states).
Gray divorce clients are typically late in their careers, which can mean multifaceted compensation packages. Consider an individual's full compensation: are they eligible for bonuses and travel perks? Do they have stock options, ownership stakes or other special benefits? All of these — as well as a person's salary — can count in the total compensation considered when determining the amount and duration of alimony.
2. Premarital assets, property, and inheritances.
In Wisconsin, division of marital assets and liabilities falls under equitable distribution, according to Gingrasso. That means in the case of divorce, marital property and assets should be divided in an equitable manner, which does not always mean an equal division, as the court will take into consideration the parties’ full financial circumstances.
"There are some exceptions, including property that was received as a gift to one of the partners or property that an individual inherited," said Gingrasso. "You may also be able to prove some of your property is a premarital asset."
Your divorce lawyer can help you better understand what falls under equitable distribution, what property may be excluded, and what is required to prove the property is a premarital asset.
3. Social Security.
Many gray divorces are among people who have been married for at least 20 to 30 years, sometimes longer. In some cases, that means an individual may be able to collect Social Security off of their former partner's earnings.
"It's important not to assume this will be true in your case. Your divorce attorney can advise you on how to proceed with Social Security as it relates to your maintenance agreement," said Gingrasso.
4. Life insurance.
If you're the individual required to pay maintenance, you may have one more expense to think about: life insurance. Not just any life insurance will do. Anyone required to pay maintenance may have to carry life insurance for a time and amount that covers the terms of your alimony agreement. Gingrasso cautioned that life insurance policies secured as we age could come with high annual premiums.
5. Pensions and retirement accounts.
Whether you are in retirement or nearing that transition, dividing your retirement accounts can be incredibly complicated. Even more complex than corporate pension plans are government pensions. Having a knowledgeable legal team on your side can help you demystify the division of retirement accounts and pensions.
Searching for a family law attorney for your gray divorce? We can help.
Divorce at any age can be challenging, but it's particularly so when the divorce happens later in life. From understanding Wisconsin state divorce law to considering your legal options, our family law attorneys are here to help you every step of the way. The peace of mind that comes with having the right legal team on your side is invaluable. Thankfully, you have the wisdom to know that's the key to ensuring your interests are protected.