Divorce is never an easy process, and when you’re nearing retirement age, a whole host of new considerations crops up. Although you generally don’t have to worry about custody fights and child support, different disputes can take the place of those issues. Health insurance, Social Security and other retirement benefits become more of a factor.
Consider delaying your divorce, if necessary and if possible, if you haven't yet been married 10 years. If you’ve historically been the lower wage-earner and you can remain married past Social Security's 10-year milestone, the federal government gives you the option of claiming your own benefits or half of your spouse’s when you reach retirement age. If your spouse predeceases you, you get his full benefits. If you're the higher wage-earner, this won't affect the benefits you receive when you retire. Your Social Security payments won't drop by 50 percent, and if your spouse receives more Social Security, this may reduce the amount of alimony you might be ordered to pay.
Check into the availability of COBRA if your spouse’s health insurance policy provides your current coverage. At 60 years old, health insurance is not something you can risk doing without, and you’re not eligible for Medicare for another five years. COBRA will allow you to cover three of those years by paying the group rate premium, which may be less costly than purchasing your own policy.
Get professional appraisals of all your significant assets. If you live in a community property state, half the value accumulated during your marriage is yours, which can add up to a great deal if you’ve been married for a long time. Even if you live in an equitable distribution state, judges generally don't stray radically from a 50/50 split, though you might receive somewhat more or less, depending on what a judge thinks is fair. Your portion of marital retirement benefits will eventually contribute to your monthly income. By implementing qualified domestic relations orders at the time of your divorce, each of you can receive your portion of any pension plans when they pay out each month.
Calculate the long-term potential of any alimony you might receive or have to pay. If your spouse is still working, the financial support you might receive in the early years after your divorce will most likely be higher than when he retires. If you're paying spousal support, some states will allow you to modify your alimony payment when your income drops, but others might require you to keep working so you can continue paying. Consult with a financial adviser or attorney to find out how you can best accommodate this eventual change without having to return to court post-divorce, perhaps by adjusting the division of retirement benefits that will kick in when retirement occurs.
Look into taking out a life insurance policy on your spouse. This could also protect your income if you're receiving alimony; your income will continue if your spouse predeceases you. The younger he is at the time you purchase the policy, the less expensive the policy usually is.
Make any necessary changes to your will. Depending on your state’s estate laws, your spouse might receive far more of your estate if you die mid-divorce than he would have from the divorce. Although you generally can’t omit your spouse from your will before your divorce is final, a good estate-planning attorney can help you safeguard against this.
Your basic divorce process will be the same whether you are 35 or 60. Property, asset and debt division will ultimately come down to the laws in your state. If you’re divorcing late in life, however, the future is now, so it’s important that you find an attorney who appreciates this and who will look out for your unique concerns as your divorce goes to trial or is negotiated.
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