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A closer look at gray divorce

It’s a constantly changing world. That doesn’t change in retirement. Technology and jobs are always changing – even marital status is subject to change at any time in life. Recent years have shown a grown in “gray divorce,” a term for divorce among couples over the age of 50.

There are unique challenges to divorce the closer one gets to retirement. Children tend to be adults, assets have more value and retirement plans are on the horizon. While 50-plus divorce has grown, it’s still half the rate of younger couples, according to a report by the Institute for Family Studies (IFS). It’s more common now than it was in 1990, but is still only about one percent of marriages over the age of 50.

Who is at risk?

The IFS study looks in-depth at common causes of divorce among older couples, finding that financial security is a strong bond for keeping couples together, while poverty or financial problems is more likely to lead to divorce.

Other theories related to the increase in gray divorce include improvements in medical science, longer life spans and that couples may wait to divorce until their children leave the house. Common reasons for all age groups, besides money, include level of education, political philosophies and overall health of the partners.

Complicated assets

Child custody is usually easier for older couples because the kids have grown up. However, the overall estate is more valuable and difficult to divide. Homes, business and property can be divided based on value or sale, but retirement accounts are uniquely challenging. Because of their different tax rules, withdrawal fees and distribution schedules, they can’t simply be split down the middle.

Most retirement plans are structured to distribute payments over time, which the assumption that the two of you are together. Your income and your needs change post-divorce and allocating resources in a way that fits your existing plans means you need a detailed knowledge of complex financial plans.

While it’s possible to manage your own divorce, working with an experienced divorce attorney who understands retirement accounts and complex property will benefit your settlement and your ability to stay on track financially through your life changes. The more complex your situation, the most important it is that you get experienced help.

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