4 Factors Baby Boomers Should Consider Before Filing for Divorce
By Matthew P. Barach

Going through a divorce is a stressful, often tumultuous, process, especially if you are a baby boomer close to retiring. For younger couples who choose to divorce, factors such as retirement plans and social security may not change dramatically – however, baby boomers who divorce have more to think about when it comes to how their retirement plans will be affected and how they will pay for the bills in their older years.

While the actual number of divorces each year is declining, in contrast, the baby boomer demographic continues to see a sharp rise in divorce filings.  In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the rate at which couples over the age of 50 are seeking divorce has doubled since 1990, with couples over the age of 65 pursuing a divorce at triple the rate of that year. This phenomenon is known as a “gray divorce.”

The increase in divorced and single retirees has created a need for baby boomers to understand how divorcing a spouse may impact their retirement, as well as the many factors that should be considered before filing for divorce.

1. Social Security benefits

America’s largest retirement income source is Social Security.  So, how does Social Security work in a divorce?  A spouse’s individual Social Security account is not divided between the parties in a divorce.  However, the general rule is that you can claim benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work history if: you were married for 10 years; you are not currently married; the ex-spouse is also eligible for benefits and over the age of 62.   An individual is entitled to 50% of the ex-spouse’s primary insurance account at their full retirement age.  But the spousal benefit must be larger than their own worker’s benefit to really have an impact or increase in Social Security.

2. Examine your assets

How much money have you saved through investments, retirement accounts, and other assets? Now, divide that in half. Ask can you still afford to live off of that savings amount? When you and your spouse part ways, you will have to divide your assets, which does not necessarily mean it will be an equal division but that is a reasonable expectation in any divorce.   So, take a close look at your assets and determine whether you have the money saved to not only pay for your divorce, but live comfortably after.

3. Consider selling your home

You will often have to undergo a significant lifestyle change after your divorce is finalized, which means you may need to downside into smaller living quarters. If you and your spouse cannot live on the divided assets alone, you may want to consider selling your family home, which is likely where much of your income is tied up. Even if you don’t own your home outright, you probably have substantial equity that both of you can use to help bridge any financial gaps you may have in your plans.  Also, consider that many times, in the event of disagreement over who is to retain the former marital home, a judge may simply order it sold with the proceeds to eb divided between the parties.

4. Retain an attorney

It’s pivotal you have experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel on your side when pursuing a divorce as a baby boomer. Unlike a younger couple that may have little assets to divide and a lifetime to increase assets post-divorce, the property division process can be immensely complex in Baby Boomer divorces.

You will need a trusted ally at your side who can help protect your rights and your property. Before you begin the process, be sure you speak with a qualified lawyer who has experience handling a “gray divorce” case. Once you sign a contract and retain their services, be sure to work closely with them and share information liberally with them so they understand your goals and all your post-divorce needs.  This approach will give your lawyer(s) the best chance of securing a fair and desirable solution for your “gray” divorce.

About the Author

Matthew P. Barach is an esteemed family law trial and appellate attorney. He is the Founder and Principal of Barach Family Law Group, LLC (https://www.barachfamilylaw.com) and author of the newly published American Bar Association book, “The Family Law Guide to Appellate Practice.”


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