SENIORS AND DIVORCE

Divorce that occurs later in life, sometimes referred to as “Grey Divorce” or “Mature Divorce” carries with it special considerations than those divorce cases that occur earlier in life. While child custody and support are often less of a concern; things like retirement accounts, social security, and health issues tend to become the focus of the divorce process when the parties are age 60 and over.

DIVISION OF ASSETS

Marital Home

Who keeps the house is one the biggest questions in most divorce cases, regardless of the age of the couple. Earlier in life it is often important because it is the most expensive asset and it is important to maintain a stable home for children. Later in life, however, it may not be the most expensive asset, and the children probably have moved out. Then why is the home still so important? There are several factors to consider.

Taxes

Owning a home comes with special tax treatment that can be very valuable to a senior. Real property taxes, mortgage payment deductions, and exclusions from the sale of the home are all factors you should talk to your attorney and tax professional about when determining whether to keep the marital home.

Government Benefits

The home is treated differently than other assets when calculating eligibility for certain government programs.

Income Potential

Owning a home gives you the ability to earn rental income, should that be necessary.

Financial Obligation

While there are several financial benefits to keeping the home, home ownership comes at a cost. Mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance can be very costly, so it is important to consider the cost when determining whether to keep the home.

Retirement

Retirement accounts are a serious consideration when seniors divorce. Even if the spouses are currently working, often retirement is quickly approaching and the division of retirement accounts a significant concern. Retirement accounts are subject to equitable distribution at divorce, just like other marital assets. Equitable distribution does not require an equal split between the spouses, but rather a ‘fair’ distribution. If one spouse receives a large share of other assets, her or she may need to take a smaller share of the retirement accounts. Talk with an experienced lawyer to determine the best balance of assets for your case.

SOCIAL SECURITY

10-Year Rule

If you have been married for 10 years or more, are 62 or older, and your Social Security benefits are less than those of your former spouse, you can elect to receive half of your former spouse’s Social Security benefits. This does not affect your former spouse’s benefits, and it does not matter if your former spouse has remarried. The amount of Social Security a person receives will affect other financial decisions, such as alimony, so it is important to closely examine your options.

HEALTH INSURANCE

As one ages the need for health insurance increases, making a loss of health insurance due to divorce an important consideration. After a couple is divorced they can no longer remain on a family health insurance plan. If you are covered by your spouse’s health insurance, you will need to look at alternative plans and the costs associated with them, and have this expense accounted for in your divorce settlement. If you are not eligible for an employer-sponsored health insurance plan of your own, COBRA and Medicare may be available options.

ESTATE PLANNING DOCUMENTS

After a divorce you will want to update your estate planning documents (wills, trusts, etc.) and if necessary, update the beneficiaries of your life insurance policies.

Divorce at any stage of life is a serious legal process that requires the advice and counsel of an experienced attorney. Call Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 for a free consultation.

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Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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