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Gray divorce: Know what you need for a fair settlement

Your kids are old enough to be in college, and the brood has finally left the home. You thought this was when you'd get back to the life you had with your spouse, spending time together and enjoying some of your golden years. Unfortunately, your spouse had other ideas, and he is seeking a divorce.

A gray divorce is a sad event, but it doesn't mean that you have to move forward without the things you need in the future. You've built a life together, and now you need to make sure you get what you need to have a life apart from your spouse.

What's the highest risk factor for a gray divorce?

Surprisingly, it's not age, and it's not major life transitions, like kids moving out of the home. Instead, a gray divorce is more likely if one of the two people have been divorced in the past. For anyone over 50, the rate of divorce for people who have remarried is around 2.5% higher than those who are still married to their first husbands or wives.

The good news is that wealth does help protect against gray divorces. A lack of resources doesn't necessarily lead to divorce, but those who are divorcing tend not to have college degrees or to be working. Unemployment (not retirement) is shown to be a cause of divorce for many older couples.

What are the common issues in gray divorces?

One of the most common issues is the division of assets such as your marital home or retirement program. If you and your spouse can negotiate together, you may decide on an equitable distribution that you believe is fair.

For example, if you have been a stay-at-home parent, you may ask for alimony as well as half of your spouse's retirement or pension. If you had children to care for, you might want to seek the marital home, but since you don't, you and your spouse will need to decide if it is best to sell or keep the property. If neither of you can afford it separately, it's a good idea to sell it and divide the profits.

Another issue in a gray divorce is one spouse's need for additional training or career improvement. In many cases, one spouse put his or her training or career on the back burner to raise children and now has a lower income potential. This has to be addressed in the divorce through alimony or other payouts.

Long-term marriages have many factors to address. With the right help, it's possible to divide your property equitably and move on with your life.

Divorcing later in life means altering retirement plans

Divorce at any point in your life can be an expensive and difficult process. The closer you are to retirement age, however, the more significant the impact divorce can have on your financial circumstances. For starters, divorces that take place close to retirement age often involve substantially more assets. That can mean a longer term of litigation and therefore more attorney and court costs.

Even if your divorce expenses are lower, you will have less time to potentially rebuild your nest egg before retirement. You may need to work for additional years, change your retirement investment strategy or adjust your plans for retirement based on your post-divorce financial circumstances.

Your kids are more likely to take sides as adults

Young children and teenagers whose parents divorce often feel vulnerable and worried about abandonment. They may do everything in their power to avoid alienating either of their parents during divorce proceedings. However, adult children often have a very different reaction to divorces. Adult children can and will have developed their own opinions about their parents' relationship over the years.

It is likely that they will hold one parent responsible for the demise of the relationship. You should prepare yourself for strong emotions from your children when you advise them of your impending divorce. Prepare yourself for the emotional upheaval the announcement will cause and try to remember to be compassionate toward your children as they work through their feelings.

Those with more assets may need more protection

Baby boomers have had more time than members of Generation X or millennials to acquire personal wealth. That is a blessing in many cases, but a curse in divorce. The more assets you have, the harder it can be to divide them up.

You will want to work with an experienced Colorado divorce attorney to ensure that the outcome of your divorce is as fair as possible. From strategizing for court to negotiating an uncontested divorce to maintain control of the process, having help when you need it can prove invaluable when you face divorce.

What should you remember about gray divorces?

There are lots of assets to divide, and getting appropriate valuations for those assets is important. Knowing how much your insurance is worth, the amount in your retirement accounts and the value of other assets is vital when you divide your property. Knowing tax implications for receiving or paying spousal support also affects you.

While divorces after a year or two might be managed on your own, a gray divorce leaves little room for errors. Those going through divorce at an older age need to be certain of the choices they make, so they're able to move forward with financial stability and security.

Why is it important to work with an attorney on your gray divorce?

The main reason is because of the complexity. Your divorce might have decades of assets, paperwork and factors to consider. Your attorney will give you information on what you need to bring to your consultation and the documents you need to gather to start the process of separating your assets.

It's very important for people going through a gray divorce to be cautious with their finances. A blow to your financial security at an older age can be harder to recover from. That's why the goal should be to work together, if possible, to resolve your divorce disputes and to separate your property. If you can do that, you both may be better off in the end.

You can also choose to seek out a valuation of your assets, which will help you properly assess what they're worth and what you should be asking for upon divorce. Your attorney will give you more information on the steps you need to take to divorce in Colorado while protecting your interests.

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