Ending a marriage is painful at any age, but for those over the age of 60 it presents some unique challenges. Even though there aren’t usually small children involved in the divorce, there are a variety of assets that may fall under yours, mine, and ours. Splitting up these assets fairly ensuring both parties are able to remain financial stable can be an overwhelming task. If either party has not held employment for numerous years, it may be almost impossible to return to the workforce, making recovery from financial hardship almost non-existent.
If one party doesn’t qualify for Medicare or have health insurance through their employer, this should be a priority concern. The non-working covered spouse should be able to continue the health insurance on their own, after the divorce. If both spouses work and one spouse carried the health insurance for both of them, it may be more cost effective for each spouse to carry their insurance through own employer, rather than continue the health insurance through the former spouse’s employer.
Every effort should be given to attempt to agree to a fair division of all assets. This isn’t the time to bring emotions into the equation. If there is property involved, including the family home, consideration should be given to the on-going financial commitment required to maintain the home. The family home provides a secure source of equity later in life, and has the potential to provide rental income in the future.
Dividing retirement plans is even more complicated than the other tangible family assets. If both parties have their own retirement plan and they are equal, they may decide to just allow each other to keep their own retirement investment after the divorce. If only one party has a retirement account that was meant to be shared after retirement, it is imperative the non-owner of the retirement account determine what retirement benefits will still be accessible to them after the divorce, including future distributions.
If the couple was married at least 10 years or one or both parties are 62 or older, there are Social Security benefits to consider. Either party can collect retirement benefits on the former spouse’s retirement record. This is important when one party has been out of the workforce for numerous years, and collecting benefits under the former spouse’s record will ensure a higher benefit payment. There is also the possibility that the surviving party could receive survivor benefits of 100% of the former spouse’s Social Security benefit, if the former spouse dies.
During the divorce process, time should be spent discussing the fair distribution of assets and the financial obligations involved. Retirement plan information should be obtained to determine the impact the divorce will have on plan distributions and plan continuation. Social Security benefits will impact both parties for the rest of their lives, it’s important to be aware of how the divorce will impact future benefits. Divorcing later in life brings a unique set of challenges into the process, knowing the impact each decision will have, will lead to the best financial and emotional outcome for both parties.
This article was contributed by Gailor Hunt PLLC, experienced Raleigh, NC divorce attorneys. All content is meant for informational purposes only. Please consult a licensed attorney if you have questions concerning divorce in your senior years.