Recent data show that older couples are divorcing at a higher rate than at any other time in our nation’s history. According to an article on Forbes.com, “In the 1990s, only 1 in 10 people over age 50 were divorced. Currently, 1 in 4 people are going through grey divorces, and the rates may double in the near future.”
While getting divorced involves many of the same basic considerations regardless of your age, when divorcing later in life (which Forbes.com calls “grey” divorce), there are some additional considerations involved. From managing your finances in retirement to spending time with your children and grandchildren post-divorce, it will be important for you (and your spouse) to thoughtfully address all of the relevant issues in order to avoid the risk of unnecessary disputes and unhappy surprises down the road.
10 Factors to Consider When Preparing for a Late-Life Divorce in Florida
Since divorce laws vary from state to state, it is important to focus your divorce planning efforts on the laws that apply to where you live. Here are 10 factors to consider when preparing for a late-life divorce in Florida:
1. Real Estate
In Florida, divorcing spouses must divide their marital assets according to the principles of “equitable distribution.” For many aging spouses, not only is their home one of their most substantial assets in terms of financial value, but it often holds the most sentimental value as well.
If you and your spouse bought your home during your marriage, it will likely be subject to distribution in your divorce. For most couples, “dividing” their marital residence means that one spouse gives up his or her interest in the home in exchange for a larger portion of the remaining marital estate. However, there are other options as well. And if you own more than one home, you will need to carefully consider how best to structure the division of your real property in your divorce.
2. Retirement Accounts
Next to real estate, retirement accounts are among most aging spouses’ most-valuable assets as well. Special rules apply to the division of retirement accounts during a divorce, with the options varying depending upon whether the account holder is continuing to contribute or currently taking distributions. Whether one or both spouses have retirement accounts will be an important factor as well.
3. Other Investments
If you have other investments, you will also need to decide how best to distribute those assets as part of the overall distribution of your marital estate. While non-retirement brokerage accounts are not subject to the same restrictions as retirement accounts, dividing both types of accounts involves many of the same types of considerations. For many couples, rather than dividing individual accounts, it will make sense for each spouse to take certain assets in their entirety. However, determining what is best in any particular case requires a careful assessment of the particular facts and circumstances involved.
4. Health Insurance
Whether you rely on Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VA benefits, or private health insurance, unless you and your spouse each have your own separate coverage, health insurance is likely to play an important role in your divorce. Both spouses will need to ensure that they maintain continuous coverage. And if you individually or collectively have outstanding medical debt or ongoing treatment needs, it will be particularly important to focus on health care as a component of the divorce process.
From medical debt to mortgages and home equity loans, any and all debts will need to be addressed during the divorce process as well. Similar to marital assets, marital debts must be divided equitably. However, regardless of any arrangement to which you and your spouse agree during your divorce, if you are joint debtors on any accounts, your divorce will not affect the rights of your joint creditors. For some couples, it will make sense to pay off existing debts and start with as clean a slate as possible. If this is not feasible, there are other options available.
Legislative efforts to reform Florida’s alimony statute failed in early 2019. For aging couples, alimony can play a significant role in the divorce process under Florida’s existing law. And both spouses will need to carefully consider all the options available.
7. Estate Planning
Getting divorced can have a significant impact on both spouses’ respective estate planning goals. As a result, when preparing for a divorce, it is also generally a good idea to revisit your estate plan. In order to protect against the risk of an unexpected illness or injury during the divorce process, you should make appropriate modifications to your estate plan before the divorce process begins.
8. Government Benefits
If you and your spouse are currently relying on Social Security disability insurance (SSDI), supplemental security income (SSI), or any other type of government benefits – or if you plan to rely on these benefits in the future – you will need to ensure that the financial outcome of your divorce does not impact your eligibility under the applicable program guidelines.
9. Family Time
While custody and visitation may not be at issue in your divorce, if you have adult children and/or grandchildren, it will be worth considering how you and your spouse will divide family time after your divorce. Even if you do not develop a formal plan for dividing holidays and birthdays, discussing options and setting reasonable expectations can help you and your loved ones avoid emotionally-difficult situations in the future.
10. Financial Management
Between dividing your marital estate and establishing alimony, one of your top priorities during your divorce should be ensuring that you are able to maintain financial stability after your divorce. To this end, many people find it helpful to develop a post-divorce budget. During the divorce process, it will be important for you to make decisions with your long-term needs in mind.
Speak with an Experienced Divorce Lawyer in Jacksonville, FL
Are you considering a late-life divorce in Florida? If so, we encourage you to contact us for a confidential initial consultation. To speak with one of our experienced Jacksonville divorce attorneys in confidence, please call 904-288-4414 or request an appointment online today.