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Gray Divorce — Issues in Divorce Over 50

Favorite Hollywood comedic team Danny Devito, 67, and his wife, Rhea Perlman, 64, have split after 30 years of marriage. The duo joined the unprecedented number of couples over 50 who are ending their marriages. According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the phenomenon of gray divorce is a recent one, reflecting the changing mores of a generation.

In a recent study by the National Center for Marriage and Family Research at Bowling Green State University known as the Bowling Green study, statistics show that the rate of divorce over the age of 50 has doubled in the last 20 years, even as the national divorce rate has seen a slight decline. Gray divorce is characterized by a host of financial issues, giving way to a new area of family law.

Financial implications of gray divorce

Social Security benefits

When a couple divorces at or beyond retirement age, the division of Social Security benefits is often at issue. If one spouse worked and one stayed home, or one spouse was a higher wage earner, the benefits can be grossly unequal. Some judges compensate by assigning a larger portion of marital assets to the lower-earning spouse.

Retirement accounts and QDRO

401 (k) plans and other retirement accounts can be divided between spouses with a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). The specific details of the division of retirement assets vary, so it is best to contact the provider directly.

Marital assets of worth

Any property or money earned or acquired during the marriage is a marital asset and is divided upon divorce. Exceptions to this include inheritance or a gift to one spouse if it was not comingled. If a couple owns works of art, a wine collection, antiques, or other items of value, those items must be sold or divvied up.

For best results, seek advice

Anyone who is going through a divorce should get professional advice. If you were not responsible for financial matters during your marriage, it is a good idea to consult with a financial expert at this time. For sound legal advice and guidance, hire a divorce attorney who is familiar with the issues unique to divorce in midlife.

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