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Columbia, MO Divorce and Family Law Blog

Retirement-age couples have unique divorce challenges

Many unhappy spouses reaching retirement age in Missouri may find it uncomfortable to discuss the possibility of divorce. However, since 1987, the divorce rate for U.S. couples over 50 has escalated continuously, even as the overall rate of divorce has been on a downward trend. Recent studies show that about one out of four couples over the age of 50 decides to divorce, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. For older couples, existing difficulties in a marriage can be aggravated by the departure of adult children and changes to lifestyle brought about by retirement.

"Grey divorces" can carry some unique concerns, especially for those who have already retired or who are planning for retirement. Many couples who divorce over the age of 50 have had relationships that have lasted for many years. With long-term marriages comes a range of financial entanglements, from life insurance and Social Security benefits to investments, real estate, 401(k) plans and other retirement savings accounts.

Joint debts after divorce threaten individual credit

Divorce settlements in Missouri represent court orders that establish every aspect of a couple's split. In addition to dividing property, the settlement assigns debts, like mortgages, car loans or credit card balances, to each party. Jointly held debt, in which both partners signed the loan agreement while married, cannot be entirely overturned by a divorce settlement. Because the creditor has both people on the loan, the creditor still has the ability to pursue payment from one person even if the divorce settlement requires the other ex-spouse to pay the debt.

If the person who was supposed to pay the loan stops making payments, then the creditor might come after the other responsible party. This situation has the potential to damage a person's credit because that individual's credit report will now reflect delinquent payments and unpaid debts.

Nearly all divorces have a few things in common

44699825_S (1).jpgA Missouri divorce can be complicated, or it can be straighforward. It may be done with or without attorneys and with or without courtrooms, but there are a few procedural steps that every divorce has in common. The exact path of the process varies on a case-by-case basis, and there are options when it comes to making divorce filings. In nearly all cases, divorce begins with filing and continues through service, response, negotiation and agreement.

The first step in a Missouri divorce is one spouse filing a petition for divorce. The petition is usually filed along with a summons. Both documents must then be served on the other spouse. Waiting to file the petition can negatively impact a person's prospects on issues like financial support or child custody.

Factors that can lead to divorce

21234513_S.jpgFor the most part, Missouri couples want to believe that their marriages will last. However, science shows there are certain factors that indicate a marriage could end in divorce. These factors range from the age people get married to the way they argue.

For example, studies show that couples who marry in their teens or after the age of 32 are more likely to end up in divorce court. On the other hand, couples who marry in their 20s or early 30s have a better chance of remaining together. Another factor that could make couples more prone to divorce is if the husband doesn't work full time, according to a Harvard study. Meanwhile, Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests that couples who don't finish high school have a significantly higher divorce rate than spouses who graduate from college.

Rates of divorce vary drastically by state

13371859_S (1).jpgWhile the overall rate for divorce hovers around 50 percent for all age groups, the number of people who divorce by the end of their 30s varies drastically around the nation. For Missouri, this rate is about 13 percent, which puts it in the middle of the national range. In general, states in the Deep South have higher rates of pre-30 divorce, with Arkansas having the highest at a rate of near 20 percent. States in the northeast have lower rates, with New York coming in at the lowest of just under 5 percent.

Just like the divorce rate varies from state to state, the reasons people choose to proceed with the end of a marriage are different from couple to couple. For some spouses, the end comes because they cannot get along. For others, abuse might be the reason they seek to leave the marriage. Factors such as rushing into a marriage, choosing a spouse as a way to please the family or even the demands that come from someone's profession might be reasons that lead to marital crisis and eventual divorce.

Online dating can lead to lower divorce rates

17644499_S.jpgMany people in Missouri search for love through online dating. There are many sites to choose from, but whether a person is looking on Tinder, OKCupid, EHarmony or Match, online dating can actually be a path to a higher level of satisfaction and longevity for a resulting marriage.

As access to the internet has become a constant part of daily life with the use of smartphones and tablets, online dating options have proliferated. There are various niche sites as well as massive apps that attract millions of users. While some have criticized online dating for encouraging casual hook-ups and a shopping-style approach to human relationships, academic research has shown that long-lasting partnerships that emerge from online dating can be happier than those forged traditionally through in-person social networks.

Issues in gray divorces

35562415_S.jpgIn Missouri divorce cases involving older people, there may be multiple issues that must be dealt with. People may have spent years accumulating money in their retirement accounts, but the accounts will have to be divided with their spouses.

When people are nearing retirement age and plan to divorce, they may have more difficulty when they retire because of dividing their retirement accounts with their spouses. If they have been married for more than 10 years and divorce, they may claim Social Security spousal benefits based on the incomes of their former spouses if it will be more than what they would receive on their own.

When divorce becomes necessary

38197351_S.jpgMissouri couples are usually committed to their marriages and making them work, particularly if they have children. However, there are situations in which divorce may be necessary for the safety and well-being of the entire family. The difficulty for many spouses is determining the point at which ending the marriage is the most responsible option.

One suggestion is trying to look at the marriage from a third-party perspective. For example, a spouse who is considering divorce may think about what he or she would tell a good friend who is currently experiencing similar circumstances. If the spouse would urge the friend to leave the marriage for his or her own good, or the good of the children, this suggests that a divorce may be necessary.

Preparing a prenuptial agreement

17858931_S.jpgMissouri couples who get married do so with the idea that it will be forever. However, a significant number of marriages end in divorce, which can severely change each person's life plan. One way to prepare for the possibility of a divorce is by drafting and signing a prenuptial agreement before the wedding.

The agreement should be prepared and signed well in advance of the wedding so as to preclude a later challenge by one of the parties claiming coercion. Generally, they must be written documents, signed by both parties who have retained separate legal counsel during the process. In preparation, each party must reveal all their assets and liabilities. Assets can include stocks, bonds, retirement accounts, annuities, bank accounts as well as the appraisal values for any homes or vehicles owned by each party. Liabilities include debts such as student loans, credit card debt and auto loans.

Pitfalls in property division during divorce

20774363_S.jpgMissouri couples who are getting a divorce will need to divide shared property, but there are common errors many make at this stage. For example, a person might decide to keep the home while the other person keeps an asset that has an equal value such as a brokerage or checking account. However, the upkeep of the house is likely to be much more costly than maintaining a more liquid asset. Furthermore, a person might even find that it is not possible to maintain the house on just one income.

Another error is not understanding the tax implications of certain types of property division. For example, one person may take a retirement account while the other takes a checking account of equal worth. The issue here is that the person with the retirement account cannot take out cash without penalties until reaching a certain age. It is also important to understand when there are rules around dividing a retirement account. In order to split a 401(k) without penalties, a person will need a qualified domestic relations order and must roll the distribution into an individual retirement account within a certain time frame.

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Stange Law Firm, PC

Stange Law Firm, PC
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Columbia, Missouri 65203

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