One of the more surprising divorce statistics in the last 20 years is the rise of divorce among older couples, i.e., those who are aged 50 or older. Most people assume that these couples tend to stick it out, rather than start over at an age where everything from dating to career prospects can be extremely challenging. Still, from 1990 to 2010, roughly 1 in 4 divorces were of couples over the age of 50, according to a 2013 publication by the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.
While a divorce is complicated at any age, those who are divorcing in their golden years have special considerations that should be discussed with a knowledgeable divorce attorney. The main consideration, for most senior citizens, is the prospect of retirement. Retirement typically results in a change of circumstances, which may affect alimony and/or child support. As a general rule, child support is continued for unemancipated children, which includes adult children who are in college.
Alimony, however, is a different issue, since it is mostly dependent on the paying spouse's available income and assets. The primary issue of contention is when a spouse seeks to reduce alimony payments due to voluntary or early retirement. The court would first have to determine whether the retirement was in good faith, meaning that the plaintiff isn't retiring with the intention of cheating his or her spouse out of future alimony payments. The courts would also need to examine factors such as the plaintiff's age and health, the availability of other assets and income sources, and the dependent spouse's ability to support him or herself.
Another issue related to alimony is the possibility of permanent alimony, which may be awarded in cases of marriages that have lasted a very long time. Although permanent alimony awards are rare, it is possible for very long marriages, especially if one spouse is a homemaker, or has limited education and/or job skills. Permanent alimony may also be awarded to spouses who have serious, long-term medical conditions, which is not uncommon among individuals over the age of 50. Even with the recent changes to the state's alimony laws, spousal support is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis, so it's important to discuss your own personal situation with an experienced attorney.
Along with alimony, each spouse also has the right to receive an equitable distribution of the marital assets. The division of assets can be extremely complicated for older couples, who usually have far more complex assets than younger couples. These assets can include multiple real estate properties, retirement plans, business interests and even valuable collections of items such as art, wine and jewelry. In most cases, additional experts such as tax specialists and forensic accountants may be necessary for the proper valuation of these assets. For assistance with finding qualified divorce professionals in your area, as well as advice on your divorce rights and legal options, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.