By Jennifer M. Paine
Many guys, facing the quandary of having to divorce with children, would rather wait for their children to be grown and divorce at that time, freed from what they perceive to be emotionally- and financially-draining work.
In practice, however, the opposite is true. There are many new and unique problems facing guys who divorce later in life.
The longer a couple remains married, the more intertwined their assets become. These include retirement accounts, inheritances that have been applied to the marital home mortgage, investment accounts, loans, etc.
It can be near impossible to trace who contributed what and when, and most judges are apt to divide everything equally no matter how much you argue that, for example, you made a down-payment on a home 33 years ago and you can prove it. (To the judge, that you did not complain for thirty years is proof enough that you do not, really, want that money back.)
Similarly, the longer the marriage, the more retirement money to be divided. Usually, this means the breadwinner has to give one-half, and in some states more, of his nest egg to his ex.
There there are the not-so-obvious, but just as dangerous problems.
In most states, retirement accounts are divided equally between the parties for the value that built between the date of the marriage and the date of the divorce. Unless the couple depleted the accounts during the marriage, this means there is more to give up in an older-age divorce than a younger-age divorce. And this occurs near retirement age when the spouse giving up that share is most likely to need it.
Younger spouses have time to contribute to their retirement and effectively “make up” for what they lose as a result of divorce, but the same is not true for older-age spouses.
Consider health insurance as another example. Those too young for Medicare and too healthy for Medicaid find themselves in limbo looking for health insurance when it is lost as a result of divorce.
On one hand, for group healthcare insurers covered under federal COBRA laws or state equivalents, continuation coverage is an option. This means the spouse who would lose insurance at divorce can elect to continue coverage for a certain period, usually three years or more, after the divorce. However, the price can be staggering, as much as 102% of the monthly premium, and prohibitive.
For those without group healthcare coverage, the cost for private health insurance can be just as much, if not more, than continuation coverage and the policy laden with preexisting condition exclusions and waiting periods.
And, as a third example, consider housing. Unless you plan on living with your ex as roommates after your divorce, someone has to leave the marital home.
But where to? There’s your son’s or daughter’s home, but that will get uncomfortable fast. You could agree to live in the marital home until it is sold, then split the profits, but that could take many months, a year or more, and the profits, if any, will probably not get you each your single-dream-home.
There’s apartment living, but the downsizing is daunting, and the cost to rent is often just as much, if not more, than the cost to buy.
But try to convince the bank that you are mortgage worthy now that you are divorced and retired, and you’ll find yourself getting nowhere quick. Maybe you are a lucky couple and have two houses, one for each at divorce. But, if you are like most couples, you have one home and cannot afford it to begin with.
The list could continue. The point is, getting rid of the child custody problem does not make your divorce any less problematic. In many ways, there are more problems to deal with, and less time and money to deal with them.
Future articles will examine how some problems continue to exist whether you are 30 or 60 when you divorce, and what to do if you waited until your Golden Years to get a divorce and now are regretting it.
“Divorce After 50” Articles:
Jennifer M. Paine is a Michigan Divorce Lawyer with Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.