If you’re a Baby Boomer, you grew up in an era when divorce was far rarer than it is today. A lot has changed since you first said your wedding vows. In the 1960s and 1970s, most women were stay-at-home mothers, but nowadays it’s “normal” to have a two-income household and that alone has affected the divorce rate. In your parent’s generation, divorce was practically unheard of and today, divorce affects about half of all first marriages, according to the American Psychological Association.
Coined “gray divorce” by researchers at Bowling Green State University, dissolving a marriage in your 50s, 60s and beyond is no longer frowned upon by society. In fact, sociologists at BGSU discovered that between 1990 and 2010, the divorce rate for the 50 and over crowd doubled. “A recent study indicates that the divorce rate among those ages 50 and older doubled since 1990,” according to Age Variation in the Divorce Rate, 1990-2010. If you’re a Baby Boomer who’s getting a divorce, here’s a list of some important things you should know.
1. California is a community property state.
In the United States, there are two methods of dividing marital property: equitable distribution and community property. California follows the community property model, which means each spouse is entitled to half of all assets acquired during the course of the marriage. It does not matter who earned the money or whose name is on title – both spouses are entitled to 50 percent interest in the asset.
2. Spousal support is typically granted in long-term marriages.
Spousal support is often granted in long-term marriages, which is a marriage that lasted 10 or more years. “When a marriage or partnership is considered a ‘long-term’ marriage or partnership (usually 10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date to the spousal or partner support,” according to the California Courts.
However, this does not guarantee that spousal support is automatic; the judge has discretion and it depends on the facts of the case. Before rendering a decision, the judge will examine the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, each spouse’s assets and income, the need for support and the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay it. In a nutshell, if one or both spouses are working, it’s customary for spousal support to play some role in a gray divorce.
3. Your nest egg will probably be cut in half.
California is a no-fault divorce state, so the judge will not care if one spouse was responsible for the divorce. In other words, fault will not be a factor in the division of marital assets. So, if you and your spouse have saved a nice nest egg for retirement, expect those assets to be split evenly.
4. You may have to go back to work.
If you do not have a comfortable retirement and you’ve been relying on your spouse’s 8 to 5 job for support, you may have to go back to work. Unless you plan on moving in with adult children and living off Social Security, divorce may plunge you back into the workforce.
5. To keep the house, you’ll have to give something else up.
In our experience, many women are eager to keep the house; they treat it as a “prize” in the divorce process. Whether you’re the husband or wife, keeping the house means you’ll have to give something else up. If you’re the wife, that could mean a smaller alimony payment or your husband could take a greater share of the retirement accounts. Before trying to keep the house, ask yourself: “Can I afford the mortgage, maintenance and property taxes?” Often, it makes more sense to sell the house and split the proceeds.
6. Your divorce still may affect adult children.
Just because your children are grown, it does not necessarily mean they won’t be affected. Fortunately, you won’t have to deal with child support and single parenthood, but your kids still may have a hard time with the divorce. While you don’t need to overshare your reasons for divorce, it is appropriate to give them a reasonable explanation. By doing so, your children can make sense of it all. If you are financially supporting adult children, this may need to be modified or terminated after the divorce based on your finances.
7. You may be lonely, but don’t begin dating until you’re divorced.
When older people get a divorce, it can feel very isolating; therefore, it can be great to engage in distractions, such as caring for grandchildren, volunteering, joining a health club, travelling, playing golf, taking on a part-time job, taking a new class, or attending community events. However, it can be a grave mistake to enter a new relationship before the divorce is final. Dating amid a divorce is not recommended; it does not help the situation. Instead, it can upset adult children and grandchildren, and anger your spouse and increase the time and expense of your divorce.
8. If you remarry, get a prenuptial agreement.
If you do fall in love again and remarry, be sure to get a prenuptial agreement the second time around. This way, you can ensure adult children receive certain assets and you can clearly outline which assets are to remain separate should your remarriage end in divorce. Our position is that whenever someone gets married in their senior years, they should get a prenuptial agreement. This shields them in the event of a divorce.
9. You may be entitled to Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse’s record.
According to the Social Security Administration, “If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried).” This is true if: you are not remarried, you are at least 62, your former spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and your Social Security benefit would be less than your former spouse’s benefit.