Is it easier to divorce after 10 years of marriage than it is after 20? Does divorce get harder after 30 years of marriage? Divorce isn’t easy at any age and at any stage of life. There can be complications that require concessions and compromise by both spouses after one, two or even three decades of marriage, though the areas of family law in which the most difficult disagreements are found tend to shift over time.
Of course, priorities often shift as the years go by. At 25, many people are working hard to climb the corporate ladder or to establish a new Pensacola business. By 50, many are at or near their peak earning power, whether they’re with a private employer, in the military or as an entrepreneur.
As priorities in life change, priorities in divorce change, too. Divorces after 10 years of marriage often focus on child custody and related issues, while divorces after two or three decades of marriage are more likely to involve negotiations over important financial matters such as property and debt division.
Let’s look at what is often most important in divorces after 10, 20 and 30 years of marriage.
Divorce near the 10-year mark
Couples that have been married about a decade often have young children, so priorities typically include child custody, parenting plans, co-parenting agreements and child support.
It should be noted that Florida has two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. There are significant differences between the two, so it’s important to know in which category your divorce belongs.
If you and your spouse agree on child custody matters, as well as on how to divide marital property and debts, and all other divorce issues, you can file for a Regular Dissolution of Marriage – a form of uncontested divorce that is typically faster, simpler and less expensive than a contested divorce.
If, after 10 years of marriage, you have no minor, dependent or adopted children, and you agree on property division and that there will be no spousal support (alimony), you can file for a Simplified Dissolution of Marriage, which saves even more time and money.
But if you and your spouse disagree on child custody (or related issues) or property division or spousal support, your divorce will be categorized as contested.
Because a contested divorce can take time, Florida courts allow spouses to ask for temporary relief, such as temporary child support, sharing time with the children, temporary spousal support, the exclusive use of the marital home and so on. Temporary relief matters can be especially important in high-conflict divorces or when children are involved.
Though couples near the 10-year mark usually haven’t accumulated significant wealth, property division issues can still command attention. Property division matters at this point typically involve assets such as the marital home and vehicles, as well as the division of debt (mortgage, credit card bills, car payments, etc.).
Divorce near the 20-year mark
Divorces near the two-decade mark can also involve children, though the kids tend to be older. Custody can certainly still be an issue, but often child-related disagreements at this point are focused on finances: living expenses (often involving a car and insurance), academics (costs of private schools or college or trade school) or extracurricular activities (sports equipment, musical instruments, lessons, etc.).
Because earning power has typically grown by the two-decade mark, divorce is more likely to include requests for spousal support to help the lower-earning spouse transition to a new life == especially in situations in which a spouse has passed up career opportunities to help the other spouse get a degree or focus on business.
In a high-asset divorce, it’s important that assets are properly classified as either marital property or non-marital property. Marital property will be divided equitably by the Escambia County court while spouses retain individual ownership of non-marital property.
Divorce near the 30-year mark
At this point, Forbes says, “spouses’ finances have been intertwined for decades” and because prenuptial agreements were relatively rare 30 years ago, couples are less likely to have one to sort matters out. This means that property division is very often the headliner in so-called divorces of older couples.
After decades of marriage, divorces often feature issues that have plagued the relationship over the years, including infidelity, incompatibility, addiction problems and money management, among others.
However, the top priority in later-in-life splits is the equitable division of assets – more important than ever because retirement is either on the horizon or has already arrived. That means there will likely be negotiations over retirement accounts (401k, IRA, pension, etc.), life insurance policies, Social Security benefits or health insurance.
Because financial resources can be significantly greater at this point in life, there are often concerns, too, about attempts to hide assets or efforts to wrongly categorize marital assets as separate, non-marital assets.
No matter when you divorce, it’s important to think carefully about your priorities and to make sure your family law attorney understands who and what is most important to you.