There’s a new trend in divorce – older spouses are divorcing more often. Some couples divorce shortly after marriage because they realized they just weren’t meant for each other. Others divorce when they reach middle age for various reasons, like their children have left home or they have different interests. Lately, however, experts note spouses who have been married for 30, 40, or even 50 years are also splitting up.
According to Psychology Today, the divorce rate among spouses 50 and over has doubled since 1990, and that rate is expected to triple by 2030. Divorces among other spouses are commonly called “gray divorces.”
What are the causes of a “gray divorce”?
Psychology Today attributes some of the causes of gray divorces to the enhanced need for self-fulfillment and self-happiness. For most older spouses, the children are not only out of the home; they’ve completed their education and may even have started families of their own. As we live longer, health can also be a factor in gray divorces, when one spouse is physically and mentally healthy but the other spouse suffers from dementia or other ailments.
Divorces among older spouses differ from divorces in younger spouses in several key ways. Usually, older spouses have accumulated significant wealth. Many older spouses have their own business. Many older spouses also have retirement benefits that may vest in a few years. Finally, some older couples have either existing health concerns or should plan for health issues that may affect them in the near future.
If you are considering a gray divorce, experienced Knoxville family attorneys can discuss these issues and how they might impact your case.
Considerations when transferring or selling your home
When a couple has children, it is important to minimize any emotional harm during a divorce. For this reason, family courts and parents often work to ensure that the children stay in the marital home, helping them stay in the same school district and keep the same friends. Usually, the parent with primary physical custody is awarded the marital home.
When there are no minor children, as is often the case with older spouses, then several other factors come into play.
- The desire to keep the marital home. When the children leave, spouses generally have less emotional and practical reasons to stay in the marital home. Sometimes one spouse may have all their memories and friendships tied up in the home, causing them to want to maintain ownership. Others may be comfortable selling the home and moving to another residence.
- The ability to buyout the share of the other spouse. When older spouses divorce, there should be a fair amount of equity in the home by virtue of paying off most or all of the mortgage. If a spouse also has business or valuable retirement benefits, they may be in a better position than a younger person to buy out their spouse’s equitable share.
- Selling the home. For many divorcing couples, the easiest solution is to place the home on the market and then divide the proceeds according to their property agreement or order.
Experienced Knoxville gray divorce lawyers can also explain the tax consequences for keeping a home, buying out the share of the other spouse, and selling the home. These may vary depending on whether a spouse wants to buy a new home, rent, or move into an assisted living community.
How are retirement benefits affected by divorce?
Older people, if they’re lucky, have pensions, IRAs, 401(k)s or other retirement accounts. If your spouse has one or more retirement accounts (that have or may soon vest), you normally have a right to claim part of those retirement benefits. Skilled family lawyers work to properly:
- Determine the value of the retirement benefits.
- Determine your equitable share of the retirement benefits.
- Arrange to have your equitable share paid through a QDRO agreement or some other legal arrangement.
Will you or your spouse need a nursing home?
If a spouse is in a nursing home or is considering a nursing home, our skilled Knoxville elder divorce lawyers will explain any additional considerations that may apply. Some of these include:
- Wealth and income requirements to be eligible for a Medicaid nursing home.
- The financial requirements for a private nursing home.
- Whether a spouse has or is showing signs of dementia or cognitive disability.
How alimony is different with older spouses
In Tennessee, an older spouse may be entitled to alimony for the rest of their life. Older spouses are normally not required to try to go back to school or learn new skills. Many older spouses may also have health problems that make them unable to work. If one spouse is unable to earn a sufficient income and the other spouse can earn an income, then the spouse in the better financial position may be required to pay alimony in futuro to the less fortunate spouse, until the spouse receiving alimony remarries or until either spouse dies.
Are there advantages to divorcing at an older age?
Yes. One of the main benefits is that older spouses normally do not have to worry about child custody since the children are most likely adults. This benefits avoid disputes about legal custody, physical custody, parenting plans, and child support.
If there are children who have special needs, then the parents may need to consider trusts and other estate planning options. Often, older children with disabilities either live on their own or in group homes that support their needs. Child support is typically required only if the disabled child lives with a parent.
As we age, most people begin to prioritize the people they want to be with and the things they want to do. Sometimes these priorities do not mesh with the priorities of your spouse. At LaFevor & Slaughter, our Knoxville divorce lawyers are skilled at representing spouses of all ages and all wealth levels.
We understand the unique challenges of divorcing when you are near retirement age. To discuss your financial, emotional, and practical rights and concerns when you and your spouse are no longer compatible, call our seasoned Tennessee divorce lawyers at (865) 637-6258 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment.
Patrick Slaughter is an experienced Knoxville attorney passionate about helping families resolve legal issues including divorce, family law matters and immigration. Patrick graduated from Lincoln Memorial University – Duncan School of Law, summa cum laude and is a published author. Patrick is a member of the Knoxville Bar Association as well as the Tennessee Bar Association. Contact Patrick Slaughter at (865) 637-6258 or by filling out a case evaluation below.
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