The rate of divorce in couples over 50 is on the rise. While divorce rates across the nation overall have stabilized over the past few years, the rate of divorce in couples who are over fifty years old has doubled since 1990. Divorce between couples who are over fifty is often referred to as “silver divorce.” Silver divorce can bring some special considerations and issues which merit particular attention.
One consideration is often spousal support. In 2014, the laws surrounding spousal support changed in New Jersey. One of the most significant changes was to the cap on spousal support awards. Under the new law, when a marriage lasts for less than twenty years, the length of the spousal support award cannot exceed the length of the marriage unless a judge decides that there are “exceptional circumstances” requiring a longer award. This is significant in many marriages, but especially in silver divorces, as couples over fifty may have been married for a significant length of time. Accordingly, spousal support obligations in silver divorce tend to be shorter than in marriages when the couple is younger, because the parties are often closer to retirement (or even retired already).The new law creates a special presumption for spousal support to end when the paying spouse reaches the normal retirement age for Social Security which is often the age of 67. A spouse receiving support may file a motion to prevent the spousal support from ending, but he or she must prove the continued need for payments. It is important for Social Security benefits to be considered in the context of spousal support in a silver divorce.
Another consideration is division of assets and debt. Divorce can be financially difficult for any couple, but after a long marriage, couples over 50 may have acquired significant assets. New Jersey law provides that each spouse is entitled to an equitable share of the assets accumulated during the marriage. This includes not only real estate and personal property, but also retirement accounts. There are particular ways in which retirement accounts may be divided without liquidating them. The order typically used to achieve this is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (“QDRO”). A QDRO lets parties divide retirement accounts without incurring the penalties and taxes associated with cashing them out. As parties over fifty typically have significant retirement assets, a QDRO can be essential.
Divorce for parties over fifty often has some special issues that parties need to consider. You need to help you identify the potential special issues in your divorce.