No two divorces are alike. Whether a couple has been married for 5 years or 50, some things will be similar throughout the divorce process, but many things will differ as each case is unique. The age a couple divorces varies greatly from twenty-somethings to those in their golden years. A divorce involving seniors is often referred to as a “gray divorce” and there has been an increase in divorce rates among those in their golden years.
Couples in their golden years may have recently married or have been married for decades. Whatever the case may be, senior divorces differ from their counterparts in many ways. Continue reading why senior divorces differ from others and what you can do if you are a senior going through the divorce process.
1. Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance, or alimony, is the financial obligation that a higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay to support the other spouse during and/or after a divorce is final. There are different types of spousal maintenance including modifiable and non-modifiable, all of which depend on a few factors before the court orders that a spouse must pay spousal maintenance.
While some seniors are healthy and don’t have any health issues, others have illnesses or other health issues that would make it difficult for them to find work and support themselves at their age. Health issues that preclude a spouse from becoming self-supporting may entitle them to an award of maintenance.
While not all senior couples have been married for many years, a majority have, and the dynamic most often includes a husband who worked to financially support the family and a wife that was a homemaker. The length of the marriage can be a consideration in an award of maintenance, as well as the standard of living established during the marriage.
There are a host of other factors the court considers in determining the length and time of maintenance, and it is important to have an attorney who can walk you through these factors.
2. Health Insurance
Because seniors usually have more health concerns than their younger counterparts, health insurance is another major factor when a senior couple is going through the divorce process. Depending on their unique circumstances and health history, the court may require the higher-earning spouse to be financially responsible for their ex-spouse’s insurance coverage.
Insurance is tricky, but most insurance plans will allow the insured to keep their dependents (including their spouse) on the plan if they are legally separated but not divorced. If a senior couple chooses to divorce, depending on the type of insurance plan they are on, the spouse who was a dependent on the insurance plan may be eligible for COBRA for up to three years. Again, insurance is tricky, and your divorce attorneys will be able to provide more specifics and help you navigate insurance and other obstacles in your divorce case.
3. 401Ks, Pension Plans & Retirement Accounts
Most seniors are already retired or are approaching retirement. If you are on the ladder, you may wonder how a divorce will affect your retirement that you’ve worked so hard for your entire career. When two people get married, they never plan to divorce so it can throw a wrench in your retirement plans.
Employer-sponsored and individual plans are the two retirement plans that the court will handle. Individual plans are easier for the court to divide since you and your spouse are both in control of the plan. Employer plans like 401Ks and pensions are a little more difficult to divide, however, the court will examine these plans and will set up a way for them to be divided once you retire.
Missouri and Kansas can have different ways of determining whether retirement plans or marital property or separate property. Depending on the circumstances, retirement plans may have a combination of both and it is important to understand what can happen when these classifications co-exist.
All divorces divide retirement plans and pensions, however, senior divorces are a little different. Since age is one of the factors the court uses in determining how to distribute retirement funds, there may be instances where the money is split differently than if the individuals were younger, depending on the needs and financial situation of the spouse.
4. Social Security
Most Americans are entitled to social security benefits once they reach age 62. If a couple was married for at least 10 years, the ex-spouse who earned less may be entitled to receive spousal social security benefits based on their former spouse’s work record as long as they aren’t remarried (unless it was over age 60).
Because you’re entitled to your social security benefits or your former spouse’s, assuming you meet all credentials, you’ll need to choose one benefit to receive. You can’t double up on social security benefits, so you’ll need to determine if your own or your spouse’s work record will benefit you most.
If you are a senior and are going through the divorce process and are looking for a family law attorney in Kansas (in and around the Leawood area) or a family law attorney in Kansas City and the surrounding area, The Law Office of Young, Kuhl & Frick, LLC can help. We’re dedicated to the practice of family law and can help guide you through any family law matter keeping your best interests in mind. With over fifty-four years of combined legal experience, our family law firm is comprised of a team that’s skilled in both negotiation and litigation, handling family law matters from the most complex to the most straightforward.
We have offices in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and Leawood, Kansas (consultations by appointment only). In addition to our two physical locations, our firm’s family and divorce attorneys have practiced in Jackson, Clay, Cass, Lafayette, Platte County, Missouri, and Johnson County, Kansas. Contact our family law firm today to schedule a consultation – we can meet in person or face-to-face via Zoom.