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Navigating an Illinois Divorce After the Age of 50

Posted on in Divorce

IL divorce lawyerMany people have looked at sweet, elderly couples and romanticized their decades-long marriages, lamenting a social era that is often said to no longer exist. If you were to ask someone if they thought the divorce rate was increasing or decreasing in the United States, what do you think they would say? Many people would likely say the divorce rate has been increasing for years when in reality, it is the opposite. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the national divorce rate has decreased from a rate of four out of every 1,000 couples in 2000 to only 2.9 out of every 1,000 couples in 2018. Interestingly enough, when you look at the divorce rates for the different age groups, the groups whose divorce rates are growing the quickest are adults over the age of 50. In fact, the Pew Research Center reported that the divorce rate doubled for adults over the age of 50 and roughly tripled for adults over the age of 65 between 1990 and 2015.

When it comes down to it, divorce is an emotionally stressful process and will be difficult at any age. However, when you get a divorce later in life, there are certain issues that you should pay extra attention to that a younger person may not necessarily have as high on their list of priorities, such as retirement accounts and spousal support. Getting a divorce after the age of 50 also often means there are more property and/or debt issues that must be taken care of before the divorce can be settled. In many cases, a late-in-life divorce, or a “gray divorce,” as they have been dubbed, can become a headache of a legal mess that is best cleaned up by an Illinois divorce attorney who is knowledgeable in the issues that may present in a gray divorce.

Why Are Gray Divorces Becoming More Common?

There have been many theories as to why gray divorces have been increasing in rate in recent years. Many individuals who get divorced when they are over the age of 50 have been married for decades and in some cases, more than half of their lives. It can be hard for some people to grasp why a person would want to leave a relationship after so many years, but researchers have found a couple of common themes:

  • Many people over the age of 50 have been married before. Pew has actually stated that one of their theories as to why the divorce rate for over-50-year-olds is increasing is because of the levels of divorce that were present in this generation when they were in their young adulthood. Second marriages tend to be much more unstable than first marriages and have higher divorce rates than first marriages.
  • Social stigmas about divorce have been changing. Another popular theory as to why gray divorces are becoming more common is because they are also losing the stigma that they once carried. At one point, getting a divorce was not even legal and even once it did become legal, it was looked down upon by many. Now, divorce is not seen as such a bad thing.
  • Some individuals find they are no longer being fulfilled. Another reason why gray divorce may be increasing is simply that individuals in this age range are now seeking personal fulfillment in a way like never before. For many of these individuals, there were certain gender or societal roles that they were expected to fill when they were young adults. Now that they are older, they seek fulfillment beyond marriage.

Preparing for a Gray Divorce

Before you file for a divorce when you are over the age of 50, you should be sure that you fully understand what a late-life divorce would entail. For many people, getting divorced later in life can have serious implications that must be weighed carefully. Here are some of the most important things you should do to prepare yourself for your gray divorce:

Meet With an Attorney

For anyone going through a divorce, a good first step to get started is to meet with an attorney to discuss your case. With a gray divorce, you will want to look for a lawyer who has experience working with clients who have divorced later in life or after retirement. The team of attorneys at Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC has represented many clients over the age of 50 in their divorce cases.

Get a Clear Picture of Your Finances

Understanding your financial situation is an important step to take in any divorce, but it is especially important in a gray divorce. When you divorce later in life, there are various financial issues that come into play that need to be addressed appropriately to ensure you are comfortable for life after divorce and retirement.

Review Your Estate Plan

If you are over the age of 50, you are also more likely to already have some sort of estate planning document drafted up, such as a will or a power of attorney. In the midst of all of the hustle and bustle of the divorce, many people forget about these documents and the changes that should be made to them. The last thing you would want is for your ex-spouse to receive assets if you were to pass away unexpectedly.

Property Division During a Gray Divorce

One area of divorce that is going to be an area of concern for all divorcees regardless of age is asset and debt division. In the state of Illinois, all couples are required to come to an agreement as to how their marital property and debts will be allocated amongst the two of them before they are able to finalize the divorce in court. However, when a couple is older, as in the case with gray divorces, there tend to be more nuances with asset division than there may be with a younger couple.

The Marital Home

Determining what to do with the marital home can become complicated, but it does not have to be. There are typically three options when it comes to splitting the value of the home for any married couple: selling the home and splitting the profit, one spouse keeps the home and pays the other spouse for their half or they continue to co-own the home. Many couples who get divorced later in life are either very close to paying their mortgages off or have already paid them off altogether, making things a bit easier. Co-owning the home is typically not an option that is chosen, simply because there are too many risks involved.

Retirement Accounts

As you get older, you will want to be sure you will be able to financially provide for yourself. If you and/or your spouse have retirement accounts, those must be divided amongst the two of you. The way this is done depends on the type of account the funds are in. For example, to divide the funds contained in a 401(k), you must have a valid qualified domestic relations order (QDRO.) A QDRO is a court-certified legal order that entitles an alternate payee to receive distributions from the account, such as a spouse.

Social Security Benefits

It may also be useful to note that there are some useful benefits that you may be eligible for through Social Security. If your marriage lasted longer than 10 years and you are over the age of 62, you can collect retirement benefits under your former spouse’s Social Security information without reducing your former spouse’s benefit, even after divorce. This can be helpful for individuals who have not been in the workforce for a while or who were homemakers during the marriage.

Determining the Need for Spousal Support

Another issue to keep in mind during a gray divorce is spousal support. Not all divorce cases will involve spousal maintenance, but divorces that occur later in life tend to have some sort of alimony payment involved.

Before you are awarded spousal support, the court will examine a multitude of factors to determine whether or not spousal maintenance is even appropriate for your situation. In many cases, spousal support is awarded during a gray divorce to ensure both spouses can continue to live at the same standard that they did during the marriage, however, this is not the only deciding factor. The courts will also look at:

  • The current income of each spouse
  • The property that has been awarded to each spouse
  • The realistic present and future earning potential of each spouse
  • The standard of living that was established during the marriage
  • The occupation, employability, health, age, and needs of each spouse

Calculating Spousal Support and Duration

As stated in the IMDMA, if a spousal support award is given, it is calculated by subtracting 25 percent of the payee’s income from 33.3 percent of the payor’s income. That amount is then divided by 12 to get the monthly amount that is owed to the payee each month. For example, if spouse A makes $50,000 each year and spouse B makes $125,000 each year, spouse B would pay support to spouse A. When you subtract 25 percent of $50,000 ($12,500) from 33.3 percent of $125,000 ($41,625) and divide that by 12 months per year, the monthly spousal support payment owed would be $2,427.08.

When determining how long the spousal support will last, there are a number of things that could affect this. You and your spouse can come to an agreement on how long the support will last, otherwise, a judge will make the decision based on the guidelines set forth in the IMDMA. Based on this, the length of time that spousal support lasts depends on the length the marriage lasted. To determine the length of spousal support, you take the length of the marriage in years and multiply it by the corresponding multiplying factor as found in the IMDMA. For example, a marriage that lasted for 18 years would multiply 18 by .76 to get a result of 13.68 years.

Our Elmhurst, IL Gray Divorce Attorney Can Help You Through the Process

If you are over the age of 50 and you think that you may be interested in a divorce, you are not alone. Statistics show that divorce among individuals who are over the age of 50 is becoming increasingly more common. However, there are serious implications that a late-in-life divorce can have for a person, especially in the financial realm. Before you begin the divorce process, you should speak with a knowledgeable DuPage County gray divorce lawyer to discuss your case. At Weiss-Kunz & Oliver, LLC, our goal is to help you identify any areas that may need to be addressed and to negotiate a divorce settlement that provides for all of your needs. To schedule a private consultation with our skilled legal team, call our office today at 312-605-4041.










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