By Robert L. Mues   |   March 28th, 2015

Be Sure To Hire A Divorce Attorney With Experience In “Gray Divorce” Cases

gray divorce divisionAn interesting article published in the Arkansas Business Journal discussed the issue of divorce with retirement age individuals.  As a founding member of the International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce Over 50, I personally am quite familiar with the unique issues that often arise in these “gray divorce” cases. When discussing the financial background of many couples aged 50-60, the typical equal asset allocation can be problematic.

These couples are more likely to have combined their retirement planning and savings. Over the past 5 generations, the workplace demographics have shifted.  Often, many couples who marry today both pursue a career path and develop their own separate retirement accounts.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s, married couples often relied financially on the men in the relationship to be the primary “breadwinner”.  This means that when a retirement account is discovered during the divorce process, and it’s distributed equally, each party will be left with 50% of their retirement assets even though they are often only a few years away from retirement.  Fair, right? Maybe not.

Let’s consider this scenario of Mary and John.  Mary and John were married in 1975 at the age of 18.  John pursued a career at a factory and was later promoted to an office job where he began a retirement account.  Because of John’s career path, Mary stayed at home or worked part-time positions to bring in extra money.  John built up a decent retirement account, and the couple began planning their retirement in their 40’s.  After some time, they begin drifting apart and file for divorce at 56.  The retirement account that John has been building is split between the couple 50/50.  Mary receives the house and John takes the car and some cash.

Taking a glance at the split it seems to show an equal division.  But once we delve into the details, we can see that Mary will have a much harder hill to climb than John.  While Mary has received 50% of the retirement fund, her plans of retirement are no longer attainable.  Mary now has the sole responsibility of property taxes, housing upkeep costs, and other costs associated with living alone.   Being 56 years old, Mary has few career skills and little time to develop a new employment path and obtain a sufficient paying job.  This means Mary most likely may live in poverty or close to that for the rest of her life.

John, on the other hand, has developed a successful career. He likely has a background in management and is settled into his career.  John has a very good chance to be able to continue working and live comfortably as a single man for quite some time.  While John may owe Mary spousal support or alimony, will that amount truly allow Mary to live with any level of financial security?

This scenario is all too frequent when “gray aged” individuals split. A report released in March of 2013 by I-Fen Lin at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, Bowling Green State University in Ohio, found that nearly 30 percent of women who divorce after the age of 50 are likely to stay poor, while only 14 percent of men are poor.   From 1990 to 2010, the divorce rate of individuals over the age of 50 has doubled, and it’s expected to continue to drastically rise even through 2030.  Click here to read the study.

Gray Divorce Scenerios: Unfairness Must Be Advocated In Court By The Experts

The challenges in these “gray divorce” scenarios are significant. When handling such a case, the divorce attorney representing the wife must aggressively advocate the “unfairness” that can be created; and if necessary, hire the appropriate experts to present this evidence in Court.  So a word to the wise, when interviewing possible lawyers to hire   in these type of cases, be sure to inquire about their experience in handling these “gray divorce” cases.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Gray Divorce: Division of Retirement Assets Disparity
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