Ending a marriage at any age presents a series of complicated changes that must be dealt with, but for those Illinois couples over age 50, a divorce can be especially difficult. There are unique challenges that older couples face that those who divorce at a younger age may not have to worry about, especially when it comes to finances. A divorce lawyer would recommend that elderly Elmhurst residents considering a split should be prepared for the numerous ways that a marital breakup could impact their lives.
Sometimes called “gray divorce,” the trend of late-in-life divorce seems to be growing. According to a study by Bowling Green University, one quarter of all 2012 divorcees were age 50 or older. In comparison, only 10 percent of divorces were between older couples in 1990. As an increasing number of couples are deciding to call it quits after many years of marriage, it may be beneficial to understand the potential outcomes.
- Property division
Regardless of age, Illinois state law requires all divorcing couples to divide up all marital property. The equitable distribution laws surrounding property division make it necessary for the dividing of assets to be as fair as possible, though not always completely equal. Before awarding any property to one party of the other, the court will look at a variety of factors, including the following:
- The length of the marriage
- Each party’s earning capabilities
- Each party’s contribution to the marital estate
In some cases, one spouse may have left the work force early on in the marriage to raise children. This can make it difficult for that spouse to earn a significant income after a divorce in the later years. A judge may determine that the unemployed spouse would require a greater number of assets to offset his or her ability to become financially independent.
For many older couples, the prospect of losing the family home can be devastating. Some wives are unwilling to give up the home at the expense of financial stability. A piece of real estate can be one of the largest assets in a marital estate, and whichever spouse decides to keep the home must deal with taxes, maintenance and additional costs on a reduced income.
- Retirement assets
A lawyer in Elmhurst would explain to elderly clients going through a divorce that retirement assets are also subject to division. Regardless of which spouse was employed or put money into the retirement account, the state gives both spouses a right to a portion of the assets. After many years in the workforce, the prospect of living off of built-up retirement funds seems doable. However, once those assets are essentially split in half, it can be much more challenging to make ends meet. What was meant for a couple to live on together during their golden years must now cover the expenses associated with two separate residences, vacations, household items and medical care.
Those who divorce in their 50s or 60s may have enough time to begin building up savings before retiring, but those who divorce after retirement may find that they will have to return to the workforce in order to make ends meet.
- Spousal maintenance
In divorces following short-term marriages or those among the younger population, spousal maintenance is often only awarded for a short period of time. However, maintenance is almost always granted after long-term marriages.
In Illinois, judges use a formula to when determining the amount of maintenance and duration of payments that are required. One of the key factors in that formula is the length of the marriage. Lengthier marriages require larger sums for extended periods of time, sometimes even for life. In cases where one spouse did not work during the marriage, the employed spouse can generally expect to make maintenance payments.
- Health concerns
Declining health in the later years of life is a concern for most elderly Americans, but for those who divorce it can be even more of an issue. With the reduction in financial stability caused by property division, a loss of retirement assets and required spousal maintenance payments, some aged divorcees find it difficult to pay for adequate health care, especially before qualifying for Medicare.
As people age, it is common to turn to a caretaker for assistance. Married older couples are often able to care for each other without having to worry about cost, but a single elderly individual would have to pay for help inside or outside of the home. With a limited budget, quality care may be hard to find.
- Family fallout
While issues such as child support or custody (parental responsibility) are not a concern in gray divorce, there are still family matters that have to be dealt with. Children of any age, even in adulthood, can find it devastating when their parents divorce. An older couple must be prepared for the anger and disappointment that their divorce may cause within their family. Children and grandchildren will likely need time to adjust to the new situation.
Couples who provide financial support for their adult children or their elderly parents may also have to decide whether or not it is wise to continue this support on a reduced income, especially if the ability to cover personal finances is problematic.
Older couples considering divorce may benefit from speaking with an Elmhurst divorce lawyer. Navigating through the often complicated process may be made a little easier with the assistance of a legal professional.