As couples grow older, they have more years to grow apart. There are also more women in the workforce which gives them the financial independence to end marriage. These couples also face more health issues.
Property division is a significant issue for these couples because they accumulated assets over many years, even decades. But each spouse who separates bears the sole burden of expenses that they shared when they were married. Expenses are 40 percent to 50 percent greater for the individual spouse compared to when they were married, according to the American Academy of Actuaries.
There is also less time for couples over 50 to recover losses, resolve debt and manage retirement funds. Spouses may be reaching the end of their highest income earning years or face the loss of their jobs.
Women face more difficulties than men in these divorces. Household income for women falls 40 percent after divorce compared to 25 percent for men. When a woman reaches their 80s, a divorced woman is living longer with less assets to support her.
Dividing assets, such as homes and retirement accounts, may be complicated and contentious. Couples may agree to trade large assets to resolve property division issues.
But this requires cooperation. Spouses may try to hide their assets which can also have serous and unpleasant legal consequences for them.
The family home poses special problems. There is an emotional attachment to this property and keeping it helps limit disruption to the couple’s children. However, keeping the house can be costly and absorb money for expenses such as upkeep, taxes and the mortgage.
Health insurance is another major concern. Often, a spouse relied on the other employed spouse’s policy and now must pay for coverage because their work coverage does not cover their former spouse. Settlements will cover health care for the children but may not cover the divorced spouse.
Coverage issues may be resolved through negotiation or through spousal support. Otherwise, the spouse can keep coverage through COBRA which is very expensive. An insurance exchange may also be very costly. Medicare may provide coverage for older spouses.
Stay-at-home spouses may also need to reenter the workforce to earn income. Spousal support may help pay for training and education.
Tax consequences may also apply to any financial decision or settlement. Accepting a lump-sum settlement or monthly payments have different impact. Receiving part of a retirement account may come with a tax bill. Taxes may also apply to child support. These should be examined before negotiating property division and support issues.
Even more issues may apply to couples in their 60s who divorce. Health care, retirement, Social Security often play a larger role.
An attorney can help negotiate these issues and pursue a fair and reasonable divorce. They can also protect a spouse’s rights in mediation, settlement negotiations and court proceedings.