Divorce among aging adults is becoming more common.  An article in US News & World Report, Gray Divorce: The Financial Challenges & Opportunitiesreports the divorce rate to be twice the amount in 2015 compared to 1990, for adults 50 and older [Pew Research Center].

A study by Bowling Green University, published in the Journals of Gerontology, indicated that nearly half of those divorced in the study were in their first marriage.  This indicates that these marriages have lasted longer than the national average of 8 years.

Ending a long-term marriage can leave many senior citizens feeling somewhat overwhelmed with the emotional and financial turmoil associated with a divorce. There may be a great deal of difficulty coming to terms with the possibility of living alone.  Other concerns include housing changes, dividing assets so close to retirement and the possibility of support.

What are some differences between a divorce in your thirties compared to a divorce in your sixties?

1. Alimony to the dependent spouse of a long-term marriage is more common than marriages that last the average eight years or less.

2. Unless the couple has children under the age of eighteen, an adult child with special needs or that requires support for medical needs, most senior couples will not have the typical custody schedule and child support as part of a judgement.  This also holds true for aging parents of these couples that were financially supported or housed by the couple during the marriage.   Since support can't be required, it isn't uncommon for one spouse to diminish his/her portion of assets as established in the judgement in order to continue support for a parent or adult child.

3. Retirement accounts that were meant for later may need to be divided or utilized which could have a certain immediate tax liability for those who are divorcing at the early stages of retirement.  A tax advisor or attorney should be consulted to discuss tax laws related to these accounts and the best solutions for both spouses when dividing assets.

4. Divorce at any age may lead to isolation, depression and emotional chaos.  But senior citizens are already prone to isolation and loneliness.  Adding a divorce, financial uncertainty and concerns about housing may produce major depression and stress.  It's important that seniors have a strong support system such as friends, family or a therapist who can discuss concerns and provide assistance.

How could the tax laws affect seniors going through a divorce?

Tax laws have recently changed and will affect both paying and receiving spouses of alimony. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 will affect new divorces in 2019 in an effort to raise $6.9 billion dollars for the government over the next 10 years. 

Formerly, the payor of alimony could deduct the support from his/her taxes and the recipient was required to claim the support as income.  Now, there is no longer a deduction, nor does the alimony need to be claimed.  This may affect the paying spouse's decision to provide a higher amount of support based on the lack of a deduction. The TCJA has also amended other aspects of taxes for single taxpayers and those who receive a child tax credit.

Since the law is so new, many attorneys and professionals have little precedent to rely upon in established loopholes or methods that may offset the lack of deduction.  This may induce a settlement that is insufficient to adequately provide support to the dependent spouse since less alternatives for adequate support have been established.  The decision to choose a lump sum settlement instead of periodic monthly alimony support is also affected by these new tax laws.

Can I qualify to receive my former spouse's social security?

Yes, you may be able to collect on your ex-spouse's social security.  There are guidelines that you must follow.  Among other qualifications, you must be unmarried and age 62 years of age or older. For more details related to the qualifications and details visit https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html

How to cope with a divorce in your golden years

It may be your golden years, but a divorce over fifty has been termed a "grey divorce" for obvious reasons.  Regardless of if it's your first marriage or if you have been through divorce before, the idea of dividing your income, assets and household is never easy. 

The emotional side of the divorce can seem worse than the financial.  As a marriage assumes years of good and bad memories, your spouse becomes more than a lover.  He should be a companion, he should be your friend, confidant. 

Upon the decision to divorce you will realize that you will be losing or disrupting an opportunity to live out your years with the person you need, but not the person of which you are now divorcing. This can be emotionally devastating and present confusing feelings about your soon-to-be-ex.  

It will take a great deal of strength to fight back from the feelings of loss and disappointment.  It's important to seek the help of counseling, group therapy, a minister or pastor, friends or family to encourage your healing process.  When seeking professional help, locate those who have experience in divorce over 50.   It's a good idea to know the Stages of Divorce so that you can eventually let go of your pain and move forward with your life.