Dissolution of a Long-Term Marriage
When a Long-Term Marriage Ends
According to a Pew Research Center report from March 2017, the divorce rate for married people age 50 and over doubled since 1990. Data provided by the National Center for Health Statistics and the US Census Bureau provides that the divorce rate for those 65 and older tripled between 1990 and 2015. If you find yourself in this situation, how will your divorce be different than a couple in their thirties or forties?
Although there are no absolutes, we find that when an older, more mature, couple divorces, the process is less acrimonious. Older couples dispute different things. Whereas younger couples tend to have a child custody fight on their hands, older couples often have more assets to distribute and potentially an alimony or spousal support dispute.
Child custody disputes involve a review of each parent’s mental health, their moral character, and many other very personal issues. The sterility of a money dispute, which may involve experts, and is usually discussed or litigated between the attorneys, eliminates some of the bitterness during the proceedings.
On the other hand, when an older couple finds themselves facing a divorce, they may struggle more emotionally. After all, they were married for decades and navigated life as a couple for all those years. It is difficult or impossible to envision life alone. Each spouse has grown accustomed to a standard of living. For example, if you live in a $800,000 home together and split those proceeds, you may each end up living in a $400,000 home or must invade other assets to maintain the same lifestyle.
The length of the marriage affects the duration of alimony (also known as spousal support). In most cases, judges do not award spousal support during short term marriages. There is no specific minimum duration of a marriage when spousal support will be awarded. Rather, an award of spousal support is based on several factors. A couple could be married for forty years and a judge may deny a request for spousal support, if the spouses earn nearly equal income or if neither spouse has enough income from which to pay spousal support. On the other hand, a judge may award permanent or very long-term spousal support for a spouse who was married for decades and the other spouse has the ability to pay the support.
After a long-term marriage, spouses tend to have accumulated significant equity in the marital home. If no minor children reside in the home, the judge will likely order that the equity in the home must be divided, and the spouse remaining in the home may be faced with a significant mortgage payment again to pay off half the equity. You should consider this when determining a post-divorce budget. Keep in mind that if you want to keep the house, you are giving up something else. Ultimately the net equity of all assets will be divided equitably and usually equally.
If you divorce after you were married more than ten years, you or your spouse may receive social security benefits based on the spouse’s earnings records. This is an important consideration when determining long term or permanent spousal support and a post-divorce budget. Likewise, your expected retirement payments will likely be cut in half, which means that you may have to retire later to offset the loss.
If you are facing a divorce after a lengthy marriage, may we suggest that you contact our attorneys as soon as possible? A conversation with our attorneys will diminish the stress and allows you to be well prepared and make wise choices.