Many people assume that once you have substantial years of marriage under your belt, getting divorced is the furthest thing from your mind. The reality is that couples over the age of 50 are getting divorced at much higher levels than in the past. While there is certainly no age limit on ending an unhappy marriage or forging a new path in life, having decades of marriage behind you can certainly complicate divorce. This is why the phenomenon of gray divorce can seem so overwhelming to some people.
Gray divorce is unique in that it typically involves a few different complicated factors. For starters, a longer marriage means years of collected marital assets. Dividing retirement accounts is especially complex and may influence you or your spouse’s ability to retire. With less time to plan for retirement, recovering financially can also be a challenge.
Get started with a list of assets
You cannot divide assets you do not know exist. One of the best places to start when going through a gray divorce is to list out all of your assets, both marital and separate. Marital assets are those you own jointly with your spouse and are generally anything you acquired after tying the knot. Some marital assets you might own include:
- The family home
- Retirement accounts
Do not forget about debts when listing out your assets. You will also need to divide your marital debts. Making this list can feel overwhelming, especially if your spouse was largely in charge of the finances or you were not aware that they had run up certain debts.
Watch out for pensions
Planning for retirement is complicated. Like many couples, perhaps you and your soon-to-be-ex were counting on multiple streams of retirement income. If your spouse’s pension was one of those, you may still be able to count on those funds during retirement.
Although many people believe pensions are their own personal property, they are quite often considered marital. This is because the spouse who earned the pension likely did so with the intention of supporting both spouses during retirement. Dividing that income will probably not stretch as far in retirement, so you should be sure to account for that when planning for the future.
Update your beneficiaries
There is a lot of paperwork associated with divorce. It can be easy to get overwhelmed and forget about other necessary changes you still need to make. Be sure to use this time to go through beneficiary designations for things like life insurance to avoid accidentally leaving money to your ex-spouse. Updating your will is not enough since beneficiary designations override wills.
Embarking on a new path in life can be scary in even the best of situations. You might even feel a little conflicted about going through a gray divorce, as the financial impact might alter some of your current retirement plans. However, with careful forethought and a thorough understanding of Washington family law, you can achieve agreeable terms for your divorce.