Seattle Divorce Lawyers Blog
10Oct/120

Divorce After 50

Gray divorce is on the rise

divorce after 50

photo courtesy of A Rod

It might not always be sunny in Philadelphia. ABC Action News is reporting that star Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman are calling it quits after 30 years of marriage.  According to ABC, “DeVito and Perlman married in 1982 and have three adult children. The couple worked together on TV’s “Taxi” from 1978 to 1982. Together, the couple established the production company Jersey Films, which counts “Pulp Fiction,” “Erin Brockovich” and “Out of Sight” among its credits.”

The end of DeVito and Perlman’s relationship is following a growing trend of divorces later in life.  Dubbed “gray divorce”, divorce after 50 is on the rise.  A recent article published by AARP reports that “while the overall divorce rate in the United States has decreased since 1990, it has doubled for those over age 50.”

The dissolution of marriages later in life can happen for a variety of reasons. Life expectancy has increased and many seniors are forgoing spending their twilight years in unfulfilling relationships. Children of couples over 50 are often grown and the motivation to “stay together for the kids” has dissolved. These facts, coupled with less shame associated with divorce and a remarriage failure rate at 60 percent, have contributed to the surge in later-life divorce.

Unfortunately for those facing a later-life divorce, the consequences can be devastating and recovery difficult. Divorce divides the marital assets —often leaving both parties with inadequate resources for sustaining their lifestyle. Furthermore, a later-life divorce leaves both parties with less time to financially recover. Having fewer earning years until retirement or divorcing while retired can create financial challenges that may require returning to the workforce or delaying retirement.

Two of the most common questions that arise in divorce cases for clients over 50 are “what happens to a pension plan when you get divorced” and “how does divorce affect spousal Social Security benefits”?

What happens to a pension plan when you get divorced?

Pension Plans and values that were created during the marriage are community property.  The most common outcome is the parties will agree to the other spouse getting half of that community interest.  To accomplish this, a QDRO is created which is an order allowing the plan administrator to separate the other spouse’s portion.  Then, when retirement age is reached the company sends a check to each party. In essence, it operates like the spouse worked for the company as well.  The other option for handling pensions is the pension is valued and the party that wants to keep the pension buys out the other half via the asset/debt division. This is a general overview of what might be expected when dividing a retirement asset like a pension in Washington State. Every divorce and division of assets is unique —speaking with a qualified divorce attorney is essential to assess your situation.

How does divorce affect spousal Social Security benefits?

Social Security benefits fall under a Federal jurisdiction and generally are not part of the divorce decree as the court really has no authority due to the Federal jurisdiction.  However, the courts can consider what each party might be receiving in Social Security benefits (especially if spouses are closer to retirement age), and compensate or equalize via spousal maintenance or property split.  But they cannot order the Federal government to divide or allocate those benefits.

If you have questions about gray divorce or divorce after 50 call us at (206) 448-1010 for a no cost, no obligation phone consultation. Our managing attorney, Ken Alan, will provide you with specific answers to your divorce questions.

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