Divorce in the Older Years

Reviewed and approved by Kathryn Wayne-Spindler

Divorce is never an easy process and takes a great deal of consideration. As you get older, divorce becomes more complicated; there are more issues which need to be taken into consideration. When an older couple decides to divorce, the individuals have fewer years and lower chances of making up for the financial losses that occur with a divorce settlement.

Divorces over 50 years old have increased significantly, which is reason for concern for the individuals involved. Some individuals may need to stay working longer than previously expected, or may have to return to work due to the financial losses occurred. To those couples who are more financially stable and physically healthy, a divorce may not be as concerning. They will likely have fewer negative consequences compared to those struggling financially or with regards to health.

In a divorce, property, assets, and liabilities are divided between the parties. Therefore, the parties will need to take into consideration that their personal costs will increase. Each party will take on their expense of their own health insurance, housing, and other everyday expenses such as utilities, car payments, and auto insurance. This can be an extremely difficult time for the parties, it may be beneficial to create a list of necessary and optional expenses in order to see how much income is needed to cover the expenses.

Tax Liability is a factor that should be looked into and considered in a divorce, especially one in which a couple is over the age of 50. This is beneficial so that neither spouse is stuck with a tax bill that could have been minimized or eliminated altogether. When splitting retirement assets, a couple divorcing will often hire a company to draft a Qualified Domestic Relations Order which is created to help designate the division of the assets and further insure a tax-free transfer.

When it comes to Retirement Savings, the individuals in the divorce case have fewer working years left to add to their retirement accounts. Being considered “at-fault” in a divorce matter is not typically relevant, and retirement assets such as a pension or 401(k) and other assets are often split evenly between the parties. If a party has not reached 59 ½ years old, the party may roll the money into a different retirement product without any penalty. But keep in mind, early withdrawals from a retirement account can, (and often do) lead to penalties and fees which may hold up one or both spouses and can cause the need for adjustments to their living standards.

As for the marital home, the thought of having to move out of the home can cause stress for either spouse, even more so if the marital home was a long-term residence. Poor financial decisions are often made when it comes to the marital home. Courts often split assets evenly between the parties. As the house has value, individuals will often use other assets in order to equalize the value marital home so that a party is able to keep the home. This often leads to individuals giving bigger shares of their retirement assets to the other party, or a party receiving a smaller amount in spousal support. The party awarded the marital home will need to keep in mind that there are expenses associated with the home such as taxes, insurance, mortgage (if there is one), and other costs. These costs can further put stress on an individual who is already struggling to make ends meet. Each party should look into their financial situation and standard of living to see if they would be able to afford the home, or if it would be a greater financial burden.

Another factor to consider is health insurance. COBRA benefits are often available for a set time of about 3 years through their ex-spouse’s employer. Individuals should keep in mind that COBRA insurance is expensive, so moving to an individual policy is recommended as soon as possible.

In a divorce of older couples that have been married for more than 10 years, spousal support is often granted. Although, it is not a guarantee and not automatically ordered. Spousal Support is a periodic financial payment from the former spouse that continues after the divorce is finalized. Some spouses may propose giving more from a retirement asset to avoid having to pay spousal support. Prior to accepting this proposal, individuals may need to consider whether or not it is in their best interest to agree to a deal that would exchange tax-favored investments for taxable income.

Individuals that had a marriage last 10 or more years, under certain circumstances, may be eligible to receive social security benefits from their former spouse, even if the former spouse remarries. Some qualifications for Social Security benefits are: a marriage that lasted 10 or more years, a divorce of at least 2 years, no remarriage, age 62 or older, and ineligible for an equal or higher benefit.

In a long-term marriage, things such as insurance policies or estate planning (such as a will or power of attorney) often have the soon-to-be ex-spouse as the executor and/or beneficiary. When considering your options before filing for divorce, this should be an issue that is brought up and taken into consideration. An individual needs to see if changing the documents should be made a priority. Estate planning can also be part of a property settlement agreement.

Going through a divorce at any age is difficult, but divorces of couples over the age of 50 are more complicated as more issues must be taken into consideration. Guiding clients to protect themselves and their financial future is important as they enter a new stage of their life and look forward to retirement.


The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients.  Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties as well as four mid-Michigan counties Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Wixom; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Linden; Fenton; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; South Lyon; New Hudson; Howell; Clare; Gladwin; Houghton Lake; Higgins Lake; and many more Michigan communities. And soon to be opening another office in Dadeville, Alabama.

For more information, please see article “Grey Divorce: It Gets Complicated” by Jeffrey N. Greenblatt on