It should come as no surprise that close to half of all marriages in this country end in divorce. While New Jersey actually has one of the lowest divorce rates when compared to other states, the divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 has been rising steadily in recent decades. This trend, also known as “gray divorce,” “silver splitters” and “diamond divorcees,” started to emerge approximately 30 years ago when divorce rates doubled for couples over 50 and tripled for couples of the age of 65. Older couples who are going through a divorce often face unique challenges, including the distribution of marital assets that the couple has accumulated over the years. If you and your spouse have decided to end your marriage, and you are over the age of 50, do not hesitate to contact a highly skilled divorce lawyer who will protect your legal rights and secure the settlement you deserve.
Why Are More Couples Divorcing After 50?
In previous generations, couples who have been together for a certain period of time stayed together for the long haul, even if they no longer felt compatible or satisfied in their marriage. That does not seem to be the case with the current generation of 50-something married couples. In fact, while the U.S. divorce rate has steadily declined among younger couples, there has been a significant uptick in divorces involving couples who are aged 50 and older. There are a number of reasons for these increased divorce rates, including the following:
- Longer life expectancy: More people are living well into old age. According to the Social Security Administration, the average life expectancy for women is 86.6 and 84.3 for men. A growing number of 50-something year old couples are realizing that they do not want to stay in an unsatisfying or unhappy marriage for another 30-plus years.
- “Empty Nest Syndrome”: Assuming the couple had their children when they were in their late twenties or early thirties, their children may be heading off to college or moving out of the house to start their career by the time the couple is in their fifties. Many couples find this adjustment to be very difficult, particularly if the children were the main thing holding them together. If the couple does not have common interests, and a mutual love and respect for each other, many couples discover that there is not enough incentive to stay in the marriage once the kids are out of the house.
- Retirement: When one or both spouses retire, this is a major life change that can have an impact on many aspects of the couple’s relationship. Finances may be tight if the couple did not save enough money to maintain the quality of life that they had become accustomed to while working. Retirement also means that the couple has much more free time to spend together. If there were already problems that the couple could overlook or ignore while they were busy working, this phase in life may bring attention to those problems, making them difficult to ignore.
- Intimacy: Men and women both experience hormonal fluctuations as they get older. This can have a negative impact on the couple’s physical relationship, particularly if one spouse is experiencing a diminished libido while the other has a very healthy sex drive. In addition to the physical issues, if one spouse is feeling unfulfilled and the other feels a sense of failure, sadness or depression. If these feelings are not addressed, or cannot be resolved, there is a greater chance that the marriage will end in divorce.
- Lack of communication: Communication is essential to any relationship, including healthy marriages. When there is a communication breakdown, or couples have trouble addressing their issues and working on an effective solution, the relationship can fall apart.
- Lifestyle differences: It is not uncommon for couples to develop different interests and hobbies. For example, one spouse may look forward to traveling while the other is more of a homebody. If the disparity creates a significant divide between the spouses, they may realize that they do not have enough in common to maintain a happy, satisfying marriage.
What Are Common Mistakes Couples Make When Divorcing Over 50?
Getting a divorce can be emotionally devastating for any couple. However, ending a marriage after 15 or 20-plus years can be a painful experience. In addition to the emotional fallout, there are other important issues that must be addressed, including the division of marital property. In order to navigate this complex process as smoothly as possible, you are urged to avoid the following common mistakes that couples often make:
- Failure to create an inventory of assets. Oftentimes, one spouse manages the couple’s finances while the other spouse focuses on other aspects of the marriage. If you do not have a general understanding of the amount of money you, your investments, retirement accounts and other assets, make sure that you take an inventory of all assets before the marital property is split.
- Keep the house for sentimental reasons. Maintaining the family home is a major expense. While you may feel strongly about staying in the home where you raised your family, you may not be able to afford the cost of the mortgage, upkeep, property taxes and emergency repairs that may arise. Also, keep in mind that property values fluctuate, so you may not be able to sell the house for the amount of money that you need.
- Unaware of debt. You may be liable for debt that has accumulated on any jointly held credit cards or loans. It is highly recommended that you obtain a full credit report for you and your spouse so that you are not blindsided by debt that your spouse accumulated.
- Ignoring tax consequences. There are a range of important financial decisions that you and your spouse will have to make over the course of the divorce process. These decisions include whether to take a monthly alimony payment or a lump-sum payment, whether to have a brokerage account or a retirement plan, whether to keep the house or sell it, and how to handle investment accounts. All of these decisions have tax consequences, which cannot be ignored.
- Failure to obtain health insurance. After a divorce, your spouse may remove you from his or her healthcare plan, causing you to be uninsured. To avoid this, you can either obtain coverage from your employer, sign up for your state’s healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act, or you can use your ex’s existing coverage for up to 36 months. However, this is likely to be significantly more expensive than it was prior to the divorce.
- Hiding assets from your spouse. If you are going through a bitter divorce where there is a significant amount of money at stake, you may be tempted to hide assets in an effort to pay less money to your spouse. However, not only is this dishonest and devious, but you may face serious legal consequences, including fraud or perjury charges.
- Underestimating your expenses. When negotiating a divorce settlement, it is important to take a close look at all of your expenses so that you know how much you will need to cover your expenses once you are no longer sharing the household expenses.
How Do I Cope with Divorce After 50?
When a long-term marriage ends in divorce, in some ways it can feel even more traumatic and devastating than if your spouse passed away, particularly if you were married for many years. In addition to losing a long-term partner, you may also experience a sense of failure for not being able to make the marriage work, betrayal if your marriage is ending due to infidelity, financial insecurity and depression. However, the following tips can help you navigate this difficult time:
- Connect with friends who are going through a similar situation. Divorce is increasingly common in older couples, so chances are, you know someone who is in the same boat as you.
- Talk to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional will provide the tools you need to move forward from the divorce and create a positive and productive path forward.
- Exercise. Whether you enjoy walking, running, yoga or going to the gym, regular exercise releases endorphins that can elevate your mood.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. In addition to exercise, make sure that you get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and enjoy a healthy diet. This can help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Older Couples with the Divorce Process
If you are over the age of 50 and you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, contact our experienced Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. With offices in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we assist clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.