Divorce court was once a venue where younger people dominated the cases. Married in their twenties, they start to come to the realization that they rushed into the marriage for various reasons. Some saw countless friends “tie the knot” and figured that they should as well. Marriage was not so much a choice as it was an inevitability.
Approaching middle-age and being stuck in a union barely holding together, they chose to move on to the next chapter of their lives separately.
Ironically, those who dissolved their marriage early in life are more likely now to see their fifty-something parents split up and start their now-tarnished golden years away from each other. What was once a storybook-like life of raising a family, buying a dream house, and setting up investment accounts for a future of stability in retirement is becoming an outdated concept.
Divorce demographics skewing older
Older people divorcing is no longer a series of isolated instances. Ending marriages that last multiple decades is, in modern parlance, trending. In fact, divorce is at a 40-year low point for all but one demographic.
55 and older, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Council on Contemporary Families cites that divorce risk for couples 65 and older has doubled over the past 30 years. The influx of middle-aged couples looking to move on is also creating complicated marital dissolutions with significant assets that include retirement accounts. Divorce courts worldwide are seeing the age demographic rising, with older couples wanting to end their long-term unions.
The complexities of ending a longtime marriage
Significant assets acquired over a long-term marriage are transforming marital dissolutions into de facto business partnership break-ups. Specific components include:
Alimony has significantly higher stakes due to the higher compensation levels older people enjoy that go beyond a base salary. Stock options, compensation packages, and even car and trip allowances become significant factors when a marriage is ending.
When it comes to dividing up assets and liabilities, Florida is an equitable distribution state that emphasizes fair division, not necessarily an equal split. When it comes to older couples, challenges exist as the property acquired during a lengthy marriage is significant and ranges from the marital home’s equity to retirement accounts and more. Even the simple act of locating hard-copy documents from decades ago presents challenges.
- Inheritances – For younger people divorcing, an inheritance is relatively straightforward in that it is not considered marital property. The spouse who received it is the ex-spouse who takes it with them post-marriage. However, money provided by a late loved one decades ago was likely co-mingled into the marital assets and benefited the entire family, not just the recipient.
- Social Security benefits – The complex and bureaucratic nature of Social Security. Rules set up by the government entity govern the length of a marriage (10 years or longer), age limits, and other requirements. No guarantee exists that one spouse will financially benefit from the other’s earnings over a career that lasted decades.
- Pensions/401(k)s – Significantly older spouses who are divorcing are more likely to have pension plans. Now considered relics of the past, the account is regarded as marital property and subject to division. More modern 401(k)s are considered marital assets.
Regardless of how old a couple is when they decide to divorce, the clashing of legal complexities and emotionally charged issues remain the same. Whether a marriage lasts a few years or multiple decades, help from an attorney is of paramount importance.