Your kids are grown. Your life is established. Your lifestyle has been more than comfortable. Yet, something is missing. Maybe you feel like it’s your last chance to pursue something different. Or maybe it’s just taken this long to get the courage. No matter what led you to this place, the reality is the same – you’re over 50 and you want a divorce.
The prospect of starting over, alone, is scary. Financially, it may seem impossible. Maybe that retirement account you planned on using is in your spouse’s name, not yours. Is it even a possibility to get a divorce and live a life that is comparable to the one you’ve been living for the past 50+ years? Is it worth leaving at this point if you’re going to sacrifice everything?
Understanding what happens
If you are considering a divorce at the cusp of retirement, you are not alone. In fact, there’s a term for it – “gray divorce.” The number of people over the age of 50 who are getting divorced has doubled since the 1990s.
If you’re thinking about divorcing, especially if it’s a long-term marriage, it can seem incredibly complicated, and it is. Surprising to some is the fact that retirement accounts and 401ks, even when they are only in one person’s name, are generally split between the two former spouses in long-term marriages. Even if the contributions were not equal, the division likely will be.
If you were you concerned you wouldn’t be entitled to anything, this is good news. But if you thought you’d have the money all to yourself and now you’re faced with splitting it, this can feel devastating. Oftentimes, it’s these financial matters that cause what could have been an amicable divorce to turn highly contentious.
Make wise decisions
When property is at stake in a gray divorce, it may be especially hard to consider leaving it behind. The memories made there are invaluable. The idea of selling it during one of the most emotionally difficult times in your life can seem downright cruel. For that reason, some people will choose to forego their rights to other assets, like their portion of a retirement account, in order to hang on to marital property or properties.
While emotionally this might feel like a good choice, it is often not the wisest long-term decision. Property, especially large family homes, are expensive to maintain. Realistically, the house you once shared with your spouse and family may no longer be financially feasible. Not only would you be sacrificing your rights to money you are entitled to, but you’d be taking on an expense that you may no longer be able to afford.
The best way to ensure you are making the right decisions is to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through your options. It’s difficult to remove emotions from decisions when you are going through one of the most challenging times of your life. Working with a good attorney can help you keep perspective so that you can have the future you deserve.