A recent client, we’ll call her Diane, told me about her story and why she had decided to get divorced after 28 years of marriage and at the age of 51. It had been almost three-decades of differences of opinions on a variety of issues. From raising children to religion to how to manage a budget properly, Diane and her husband had disagreed on most of these core principles. Now that their 2-children were grown and both out of college, she decided it was time to move on. Starting a new chapter in life when you are near or over 50 years old is a daunting proposition and having an attorney that understands these issues is important, as this is a critical time in a person’s life.
Diane told me that she stayed together with her husband all this time, even though they had differences of opinion on so many issues because she thought it would be better for her children to grow up in a “stable” family environment. The problem here was that Diane was alone in her marriage and what she needed was a partner, not an adversary.
While staying together for the benefit of the children seems like it is a noble cause and, in many instances is good for them, too often one party is taken advantage of and kids pick up on this behavior. Sometimes, breaking up is the best thing for children, because now, instead of having two parents always at odds with each other, they have two parents that agree to disagree, and the after the breakup, the fighting stops.
That being said, there are many issues that people entering a “gray divorce” (named for people near or over 50 years of age) need to consider. One such concern is the aspect of alimony or spousal maintenance. Empty-nesters need to consider what options they have available by speaking with an attorney, if you were a stay at home parent, you may deserve some temporary or permanent maintenance. Retirement accounts and pensions may also need to be divided and chances are, there is a property that is paid off or close to it that needs to be divided or sold to share in the equity between the parties.
Even though national divorce rates have decreased since the 1990’s, the most recent 10-years has shown us an increase from one in ten people 50 or older filing divorce to one in four. This trend defies any type of simple explanation but one things is certain, more older empty-nesters and baby boomers are finding themselves getting divorced than ever before. And with so many critical issues being present in this time of your life, consulting with an attorney that knows how to handle complex financial issues is critical to moving on to the next chapter in your life.