For some time now the frequency of divorce has been declining in most segments of the population, except for one: those people who are in the age group of 50 years or over; the people we know as “baby-boomers.” And since many of these people have gray hair, a new moniker has been applied to their situations.
There are various reasons why people who have been married for 20, 30, or even 40 years decide to split; they include clients saying “we have grown apart;” children – who held them together as a couple – no longer living at home; retirement which makes them aware of their spouse in a different way than when they were away at work most of the week; age – one person is aging faster than the other and the other does not want to be around someone who “makes them feel old” or who “acts old;” disputes over spending habits; differences in sexual desires; or they are simply tired of life as it and think that this is the last chance to make a big change.
These cases would seem, at first blush, to be less complicated that those involving children and custody disputes – but in many instances they are not. This segment of the population has unique issues to deal with that earlier generations do not. By way of example, one party might be in need of spousal support and had they divorced in their 40s, the supporting spouse may have had another twenty-five years of work and income flow coming to him or her. When both parties are near or at retirement age, a court isn’t going to expect one to keep working so that the other can pursue a lifestyle that does not involve work. Couples in this age category oftentimes have passive sources of income which may be sufficient to enable them to live a comfortable lifestyle but will not generate enough income to support two households at the same level, even if they are households of only one person. Baby-boomers who had financial success in earlier years may find themselves now possessed of assets that may have significant value – such as real estate which, upon sale, will generate a large, otherwise unanticipated, tax liability diminishing the value of the overall estate. And, given the ages of these people, there are often issues concerning health and related expenses that are now part of one of the parties’ basic needs, but may not have been five or ten years earlier. Where the family has an ongoing business that has achieved significant value over the years, there are complications when the non-working spouse wants his or her share of the appreciated value in that business which might only be obtainable through a sale which could affect their children or grandchildren.
These cases oftentimes require creative solutions that might not otherwise be applicable to a divorce involving younger folk. They most often require the use of the family’s financial consultants or outside experts to take more active roles in coming up with solutions than might otherwise be required. And, it is often the case that when the parent’s divorce means a significant change in the financial expectations of their adult children, it is not uncommon for them to jump in and begin attempting to influence the outcome of the process to protect their own interests. For these reasons, it is important that people who are contemplating divorcing after 50 engage in some strategic planning with their lawyer and financial advisors before jumping all the way into the process.