Creve Coeur & O'Fallon, MO Divorce Over 50 Lawyers
Getting divorced can be one of the most challenging things you go through, but it may be especially hard if you are older and have been married for a long time. Divorce after 50, also called “gray divorce,” is not the same as a typical divorce; there may be several differences in the circumstances.
Attorneys for Older Couples Facing Divorce in St. Louis County and St. Charles County
Most couples seeking a gray divorce are retired, near retirement, or have unique reasons why they have not retired yet. Long-term marriages likely have more assets and considerably larger assets that may be more complicated to divide. Due to stereotypical generational roles of the husband being the provider and the wife being the homemaker, temporary or permanent spousal support may be more likely.
At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., our experienced divorce and family law attorneys recognize the challenges couples over 50 face during divorce – and we are focused on addressing the needs of our older clients. Our knowledge and understanding of the issues help us provide guidance and skilled representation to clients going through the process of a gray divorce.
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The Rise of Gray Divorce
If you are over the age of 50 and considering a divorce, you are not alone. While research shows that the overall divorce rate has declined over the past 20 years, the divorce rate for couples over age 50 is surging. Researchers have found a few reasons that may explain the increase in the split or separation of older couples who have been married for a long time.
One is that couples who are typically married for over 20 years have simply grown apart. They usually realize this after they become empty nesters and discover that raising children was what was keeping them together. Now, divorce is more of an option because the stigma that once surrounded it in their parents’ generation is no longer there. Another reason is that due to a longer life expectancy, couples find themselves in their 50s and 60s, unhappy, and they want to spend their remaining 20 to 40 years doing what makes them happy. Finally, some couples feel they have lost “the spark,” while others believe they have changed and are no longer who they were when they married.
The divorce statutes in Missouri are the same regarding of your age. However, in a divorce between spouses over 50, financial and insurance issues tend to take on increased importance. For example, the division of marital assets needs to be viewed very differently when you are over 50. Keeping the marital home for stability of the children is usually no longer important. Rather, the division of marital assets is more focused on retirement savings and liquidity to pay monthly expenses. The determination of spousal maintenance plays a much greater role for both spouses as one may need to reenter the workforce after being out of the workforce for many years and one may no longer be able to retire as early previously planned prior to the divorce. A younger divorcing couple is more concerned about child custody and child support. An older divorcing couple is more concerned about health insurance, long-term care insurance, and Social Security benefits.
Getting divorced at any age causes financial anxiety. However, divorcing when you are 50 or older can heighten that anxiety as you consider the uncertainty of your financial future post-divorce. Will I have to start over financially? This a common question to ask yourself during this time. The answer will depend on your net worth and monthly expenses. The result of your divorce settlement (division of property, an award of spousal maintenance) will determine whether you need to find a job, a new home, dip into savings, etc. You will want to discuss these questions throughout the divorce process, so you be properly advised as you look to establish yourself as a single individual, perhaps for the first time in over twenty years.
Most retirement savings and plans earned during the marriage are marital property subject to being divided at divorce. You are generally entitled to an equitable share of you and your spouse’s retirement savings and plans. However, you should keep in mind that you and your spouse were saving for one retirement household. Post-divorce there will be two households to support. Therefore, your marital plan for when to retire or how much you are currently saving for retirement each month will need to be discussed as you will be a single individual. This may result in some simple adjustments to your plan contributions or a major adjustment to your retirement date.
In Missouri, spousal support (i.e., maintenance) is not guaranteed in any divorce unless you and your spouse signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that sets forth the terms for that to occur. Otherwise, under Missouri law, a court may grant maintenance only if it determines that a spouse lacks sufficient property, including property awarded during the divorce, to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and is unable to support himself or herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child that makes employment outside the home unreasonable. Thus, for a court to even consider awarding maintenance, it must first find a spouse really cannot meet his or her reasonable needs through his or her own efforts.
The Missouri spousal maintenance statute gives the court specific direction to arrive at a reasonable sum for maintenance. In general, the longer the marriage, the more likely the court will award some maintenance, particularly if the requesting spouse spent most of the marriage caring for the children. The court will look at the monthly budget of expenses of the requesting spouse, determine what is truly reasonable, and find the gap between expenses and reasonable income. The gap will be the sum for maintenance, subject to the ability of the other spouse to afford it.
If a court finds that your spouse really cannot meet his or her reasonable needs through his or her own efforts, then you could be ordered to pay spousal support. This is fact dependent on the division of retirement savings in your divorce and whether it or other property was used to address your spouse’s financial needs. The ability to divide retirement can also affect the court’s determination to order spousal maintenance. For example, if you are receiving VA benefits instead of military retired pay that could normally be divided or receive a monthly payment from the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) that is considered separate property by law, and your spouse has no retirement and was not working outside of the marital home, then spousal support may be awarded by the court even though you are retired.
If you were a stay-at-home parent or had little or no work history during the marriage, then you may not qualify for Social Security benefits under your work history. If that is you, then you should determine if you could qualify for partial benefits under your former spouse’s work history. This should be investigated during the divorce process but can be done even after your divorce. Your benefits eligibility will depend on several factors including your birth year, the age at which you start claiming benefits, the length of your marriage, etc. Your monthly Social Security benefit can be an important consideration in your divorce settlement and should not be ignored when divorcing over the age of 50.
In most divorces, the marital home is an asset that must be considered during the property division process. If you and your spouse can reach an equitable agreement regarding this asset that would be best as follow up matters are most likely going to be completed without any issues. If your property division results in you being able to keep (and afford) the home, you would take the steps necessary to have the deed, mortgage, insurance, utilities, etc. into your individual name. The award of spousal maintenance may also make keeping the house a viable option. If not, then you need to determine how you will receive your marital equity from the property, either by sale or by being bought out by your spouse. There are also tax considerations that affect you staying in your home. The marital home is a significant asset and needs to be thoroughly discussed in the divorce process so you can make the best decision for your financial future.
If your role during the marriage was to be the stay-at-home parent or the homemaker or simply a non-working spouse, you may be concerned about having to find a job post-divorce. If you didn’t finish your education or have been out of the workforce for more than 10 years, you may not know where to begin in making your next life decision. However, going back to finish your education or restarting a career post-divorce is possible, and you should develop a post-divorce life plan. This plan can then be discussed so your lawyer can work toward helping you have the answers and resources you need to obtain further education or training as required. If finances dictate that you will need to obtain further education or training, it is important for your lawyer to know how long it may take you to get back on your feet post-divorce.
Securing health Insurance is often critical in an older divorce, and particularly so if you have preexisting health issues. If your spouse has coverage through his or her employer, you will not be eligible to remain on his or her health insurance plan once a Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage is entered by the court. Continuing coverage through COBRA Is an option, but such coverage may be too expensive for you, especially if you are paying monthly expenses from retirement income. You need to know all your options and costs for health insurance coverage during the divorce negotiation process so your attorney can use this information for purposes of negotiation or presentation at trial.
Important Issues in a Gray Divorce
Our divorce lawyers recognize that most gray divorce cases involve couples who have been married for most of their lives. At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., we often see cases where the spouses have not been single adults for over 30 years. It is usual for these clients to feel overwhelmed by the idea of getting divorced. With more than 25 years of experience in the practice of family law, Jonathan D. Marks has the knowledge and understanding to thoughtfully help you manage the complexities of your divorce no matter what challenges may be presented.
If a gray divorce is imminent, there are several considerations you and your spouse will be required to address. These include but are not limited to the following:
Division of Marital Property
A younger couple is likely to argue about who will get the house and the furniture, but at your age, you are more likely to be worried about having sufficient resources for retirement. Divorce over 50 means there is a much smaller window to accumulate retirement savings and cash. This makes the process of dividing marital assets and debts particularly important.
Spousal support or alimony is called maintenance in Missouri. In gray divorces, maintenance can be an important concern, especially if one spouse spent most of the marriage as a stay-at-home parent. It may be difficult for this spouse to reenter the workforce without additional education or training, resulting in the need for financial assistance through spousal support.
Social Security Benefits
If you and your spouse were married for at least ten years, you might qualify for Social Security benefits, depending on your former spouse’s work history. However, there are many factors that could affect your eligibility and how much you could potentially receive. You will need to know the amount of Social Security retirement benefits you could receive per month when developing your long-term financial plan during the divorce process.
Insurance is an issue that can be particularly stressful in a gray divorce. If you or your spouse has serious health concerns, the cost of health insurance benefits through COBRA, an insurance broker, or the marketplace will need to be investigated and compared. If you or your spouse may require long-term care, insurance is even more important in your divorce process because such care is costly. Our divorce attorneys will discuss your options for health, life, and supplemental insurance, as well as your eligibility for government insurance plans such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Jonathon Marks was fantastic as my lawyer through a difficult divorce. Always calm and logical, he helped me thru a difficult experience. He was extremely fair and reasonable in terms of fees. If you have to go thru this unfortunate event in your life, I highly endorse the Marks Law Firm.
Contact Our Over 50 Divorce Attorneys in Creve Coeur & O’Fallon
At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., our divorce attorneys in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon can also help you address many of the practical concerns associated with your gray divorce. Send us an email or call us at 314-993-6300 to speak with one of our experienced divorce attorneys. Additionally, we provide guidance with drafting prenuptial agreements for individuals over 50 who are looking to get married again.