Alabama Divorce When You’re Over Age 50

Posted by Steven D. Eversole | Jun 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

It's a myth that most Birmingham divorces and separations involve younger couples.

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In fact, a large number of clients who seek the assistance of a Birmingham divorce lawyer are those approaching retirement.

Recently-published research indicates that between 1990 and 2009, the rate of divorce doubled for older adults. What's more, about one-fourth of divorces involve those who are older than 50.

For them, there are special considerations that must be made, particularly if the couple spent many years together. This is true even when the children have grown up and left the home.

Older women in particular need to be careful when striking deals with their ex. While gender roles are no doubt shifting, older females today are still less likely than their spouses to have a solid work history and therefore retirement account. No matter what age you are, your chunk of social security, retirement accounts and pension plans are going to be important. However, the older you are, the more critical these things become – and the less you can afford a mistake.

Divvying it all up is not only very complicated and rife with numerous tax implications, it's also frequently mishandled. A number of lawyers unfortunately don't have a lot of experience in these areas. That's why you need to make sure yours does.

Some of the most important things to keep in mind if you're over 50 and divorcing: 

1. Understand that retirement funds that were accrued during the course of the marriage are, for the most part, considered marital property. During your marriage, of course you had planned to grow old together – and sharing your retirement funds. Divorce means those plans have changed, which means all of those accounts need to be carefully examined in order to decide the fairest way to divide them. In some cases, money that was in those accounts prior to the marriage may be considered separate property. In others, any increase in the value of those accounts throughout the course of the marriage may be deemed part of the marital property.

2. If you have a 401(k) or a pension plan that requires division, you will need to implement a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Your divorce lawyer can explain more about this, but this is going to be necessary for a lot of soon-to-be retired divorcing couples. It's also worthy of note that if you or your spouse worked for the military or other government entity, there may be other special considerations as to how the plans can be split. There are a lot of women who assume that a divorce settlement agreement alone is going to protect their entitlement to a retirement account. This is not always true, so that's why it's important in many cases to have a properly-prepared QDRO. This must be submitted and approved prior to the finalization of the divorce.

3. Don't forget the kids. While it's true that you may not be waging a major custody battle, as your children are probably older or completely grown, you do want to make sure that certain assets are going to be passed to your own children – rather than your ex's new spouse and their current or future children. Trusts are one way to establish this, and your Birmingham divorce attorney can help you navigate through other options as well.

If you are contemplating a divorce in Birmingham, contact Birmingham Family Law Attorney Steven Eversole at (866) 831-5292.

Additional Resources:

How Divorcing Women Should Handle Retirement and Pension Plans By Jeff Landers, Forbes Magazine

About the Author

Steven D. Eversole

J.D., Samford University's Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama B.A., University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama

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