Throughout the United States, the rate of so-called “gray divorces,” or divorces of those past retirement age, has been on the rise. In fact, while divorces are less common now than they were in decades past, the number of gray divorces has doubled since 1990. Cultural changes, such as the ease of obtaining a divorce and the lessening of social stigma, may contribute to this increase.
Unhappily married older couples may finally feel like they’ve reached a point where they no longer need to try to stay together for the sake of their children (or even grandchildren).
While everyone should feel free to pursue the lives they desire, it’s important to consider the potential impact of a divorce later in life. For those who have already left the working world, the expenses involved in a divorce could prove difficult to overcome. In some cases, re-entry into the workforce may not be an option, leaving those who seek a divorce to work it into their current budget or pay for it from saved funds.
Mediation can save you both money
If you and your former spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, such as the divisions of assets, you can expect a faster and more affordable divorce process. Contentious divorces can make things more expensive. Although their custody is not under consideration, calls to adult children to testify in court could strain parental-child relationships.
If you can both agree to work through the issues you don’t currently agree on, mediation is a great solution. You both sit down with your own lawyer and talk through your disagreements with the help of a neutral third party. Everything from how to divide pension benefits to who is keeping your dog can get handled in a mediation session, allowing you to finish the divorce quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Retirement accounts may get split
Even if you both have your own retirement accounts or pensions, the courts may decide to split the existing accounts. Unless both spouses earned the same amount or there is a prenuptial agreement pertaining to these funds, the accounts may get divided. The reasoning is simple. The courts try to arrange an equitable distribution of assets acquired during the marriage. Just because one spouse earned more income and built a larger retirement account doesn’t mean he or she can just keep everything.
Typically, you can split most common retirement accounts without incurring penalties and fees, so long as it is done with the right forms and a divorce-related court order. That means that both spouses can receive an equitable and fair portion of the retirement funds, regardless of individual contributions to the account.