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Info for older couples planning to divorce

As the average age of North Carolina residents, and Americans in general, increases, so does the instance of divorce occurring among older couples. In 1990, approximately one out of every eight divorces was between spouses age 50 or older. According to a recent study, that number increased to one in every four divorces in 2009.

A divorce between older spouses involves different issues than with younger couples. Divorce between younger couples tends to focus more on children who are minors than retirement. In addition, it is more difficult for an older person to recover retirement savings and other assets that are depleted due to a divorce. There are, however, a few things that older persons nearing retirement can do to make the divorce process go more smoothly. 

First, it helps for each spouse to know the state of their individual finances. In many marriages, it is common for one spouse to handle all financial matters. The other spouse may benefit from obtaining a copy of recent credit reports to see what accounts are held, and where, and to verify debts that are owed. That will make it easier to manage finances after the divorce is final. It is also important to change beneficiaries on accounts following a divorce.

The most important part of a divorce is likely the splitting of assets accumulated during the marriage. North Carolina is an equitable distribution state, which means that the judge will divide assets fairly but not necessarily equally. The general rule is that each spouse is entitled to approximately half of all marital assets, which can include retirement assets acquired by either spouse. An experienced family law attorney is often able to help spouses negotiate an equitable settlement without the need for a long, emotional trial.

Source: Howard Hook, "Tips for Going Through a Gray Divorce," Howard Hook, March 7, 2013 

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