Divorces Occurring Later in Life – Also Known as “Grey Divorces”

Jun 1 2023 - Posted by , in Divorce

Special Considerations for Grey Divorces in Texas

Regardless of your age, getting divorced requires an informed and forward-thinking approach. But, for spouses who are getting divorced later in life (commonly known as a “grey divorce”), there are some special considerations involved in the process.

If you are contemplating a grey divorce, it will be important to make sure you consider all pertinent factors and make informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind. Overlooking important considerations can lead to unnecessary costs and complications, and it can lead to post-divorce disputes in some cases.

What Makes Grey Divorces Different from Other Divorces?

To begin, we should clarify why grey divorces involve special considerations. All of the special considerations involved have to do with age. As you get older, you have less time to save for retirement, and you face a greater risk for various health complications. Older couples typically have more property as well, and while they may no longer have children at home, they have their financial legacy to think about as well.

These factors—among others—combine to impact the divorce process in several important ways. As a result, older spouses need to acknowledge these factors, and they need to address them proactively when bringing their marriage to an end.

7 Important Factors When Getting a Grey Divorce

So, what are we talking about? Here are seven important factors to consider when preparing to go through a grey divorce in Texas:

  1. Identifying Separate and Community Property

All divorcing spouses must carefully identify their separate and community property at the outset of the divorce process. Texas law requires divorcing spouses to “justly” distribute their community property, and it provides that the spouses’ respective separate property is not subject to distribution.

When you’ve owned most of your property for decades, this can make it more difficult to determine their separate or community status. This is true not only because it can be more difficult to identify the date of acquisition but also because various circumstances can affect the property’s status as separate or community over time. For example, even if you or your spouse owned your home prior to your marriage if you remodeled or renovated your home during your marriage, this will have an impact on the role your home plays in your divorce.

  1. Prioritizing Community Property

As you get older, prioritizing certain community property during the divorce process can take on heightened importance. This is especially true with regard to retirement property, including IRAs, 401(k)s and pensions. If you are approaching retirement age (or if you are already retired), it will be critical to ensure that you have access to the financial resources you need after your divorce.

Beyond addressing your financial needs in retirement, it will be important to think carefully about your other property-related priorities as well. Do you want to remain in the family home? Do you want to keep your vacation property? Do you have cars, artwork or other property that are important to you? By putting a plan in place at the outset, you can set yourself up to make decisions that you’ll be happy with once your divorce is over.

  1. Paying Off Debts

Many older couples use the divorce process to become debt-free. If you are interested in eliminating debts through the divorce process, this is a priority that you should be sure to discuss with your divorce lawyer. Regardless of whether you and your spouse’s priorities are aligned in this regard, there are steps your lawyer can take to help minimize (if not completely eliminate) your debt post-divorce.

As an example, many empty-nesters will also want to downsize through their divorce. If you have a mortgage on your primary residence and neither you nor your spouse wants to remain in the family home, you can sell the home, pay off the mortgage and distribute the remaining proceeds. Or, if you have a vacation home that you’ve only visited once in the past two years, you could consider selling this property—or allowing your spouse to take sole ownership—during your divorce as well.

  1. Avoiding Unnecessary Tax Liability

When dealing with things like retirement and paying off debts, it is important not to overlook the tax implications involved. There are strict rules around dividing retirement accounts (and special procedures for dividing retirement accounts in a divorce) and selling appreciated property will trigger capital gains taxes in many cases.  To ensure you do not incur tax liability unnecessarily, it will be important to work with a divorce lawyer who can take these additional (and often overlooked) considerations into account.

  1. Healthcare Planning

For older spouses, healthcare planning is also an important part of the divorce process. Both spouses will need to make sure they have continuing access to good health insurance, and they will want to consider their potential future out-of-pocket healthcare costs as well. Going through a divorce is also a good time to consider things like Medicare planning, and older divorcing spouses should carefully address all pertinent considerations related to life insurance as well.

  1. Estate Planning

Along with healthcare planning, estate planning is another important ancillary aspect of the divorce process. If you and your spouse have a joint estate plan, or if your estate plan names your spouse as your primary beneficiary (which is most likely the case), you will want to address this promptly in conjunction with your divorce.

  1. Protecting Access to Social Security and Other Benefits

Finally, we briefly mentioned Medicare planning, and there are other government benefit considerations involved in going through a grey divorce as well. One of the most significant of these considerations is Social Security. If you will rely on Social Security during your retirement, you will need to make sure that you remain eligible to receive these benefits after your divorce.

Schedule an Initial Divorce Planning Consultation at the Lincoln Law Firm, PLLC

If you are contemplating a grey divorce and would like to know more about the considerations involved, we invite you to get in touch. Please call 281-970-9005 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today.

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