It used to be quite rare for people over 50 to divorce, but times are changing. Between 1990 and 2009, the divorce rate among people 50 and older doubled. In 1990, the divorce rate among that group was about 1 in 10. By 2009, it was one in four.
So if you’re considering a later-in-life divorce, you’re not alone. You need to know that your experience will be someone different than it would be for a person in their 30s. First of all, you’re much less likely to have child custody issues. Second, you’ll need to come up with a fair way to divide your marital assets and debts. Here are a few things to consider:
- It may not make sense to keep the house. As you divide your shared incomes to cover two sets of living expenses, you may realize that you can no longer afford to live in the family home. This can be a problem because you’re probably emotionally attached to it. Depending on your situation, however, you may be able to keep the house by trading other parts of the marital estate with your ex.
- Dividing your retirement accounts will likely require a QDRO. Couples who are closer to retirement usually have a lot of their money tied up in retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s. When these accounts are tax-advantaged, you will pay a penalty for early withdrawals. To avoid that, you will need a court order called a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO. This needs to be presented to the administrator of the account for division – don’t withdraw the money yourself.
- You’ll need to divide your debts equitably, too. You likely have joint credit card accounts, and you may still owe money on the mortgage, which is typically also joint. You should pull a credit report on each of you and make sure you’re both aware of any and all outstanding debts. The goal is to pay them off, to the extent possible, before you finalize the divorce. If you can’t, you’ll have to come up with a fair way to divide them.
- Alimony is more likely. In North Carolina, the courts consider 16 factors when determining whether alimony is appropriate. Ultimately, however, if one spouse has largely supported the other during the marriage, it’s more likely that the court will award the dependent spouse at least some alimony. That said, be aware that infidelity and other marital misconduct can have an effect on whether alimony is ordered.
Divorcing later in life comes with some crucial decisions. Work closely with a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile for you.