Are you or someone you know going through a divorce after the age of 50? This article will help. Attorney Laura Allison Wasser (LAW) is an author, entrepreneur, and family law expert with over 20 years of experience. She will help you during this hard time in your life.
A Woman Over 50’s Guide to Getting Divorced
When a prospective client walks into my office, my first task is always to be a great listener. As it turns out, most people are terrific storytellers, so this part of my job is a real pleasure, and the stories I hear are as unique as my clients. Some folks narrativize their impending divorces as challenges, laden with obstacles, and inspiring a readiness to fight for what they want. Some stories I hear are tragic, heavy with loss, and characterized by a quiet wish for self-preservation. The luckiest people come to me level-headed, grateful for their experiences with their ex, but ready to make a productive change.
If a client isn’t ready to be that level-headed person yet, then it’s my job to do it for them. I hear, I mean really hear, their story, and I translate it into a set of actionable goals. When I meet a prospective client who is a fellow woman over 50, I can usually guess that my job is going to be a whole lot easier. I mean, we’re intuitive, insightful, and we know what we want, right? After all, we’ve earned that wisdom through trial and error over the course of our entire lives.
Nowadays, Baby Boomers represent the group most likely to get divorced in the US, so I’ve been helping more and more women over 50 enter single life, often for the first time in many years. The most important difference between them and my younger clients is their tendency toward a more advantageous attitude, but there are also some little logistic differences that present unique challenges.
Women Over 50 Are Coming Out of Longer Marriages
While I am a divorcee myself, my own marriage only lasted 14 months. This turned out to be somewhat of a blessing because it meant that we didn’t have such a difficult time untangling our lives. This is unfortunately not the case for most divorcing women over 50 that I meet.
The longer a couple stays married, the more inexorable of a unit they seem to become. After a couple of decades of marriage, there probably isn’t that much stuff in your household that (you remember) belonged to one spouse or the other before you got hitched. What this means is that virtually everything either one of you owns is available for negotiation.
The worst-case scenario is when a couple actually does want to account for every book on the shelf and every pot or pan, perhaps fueled more by spite than by an actual desire for an incomplete set of cookware. Thankfully, most clients in this age group have the maturity to let go of the little things and just aim for broad-strokes fairness. Your time is precious, your toaster is not.
The more difficult thing is the emotional division inherent to ending a marriage. For lack of better words, sometimes people just forget how to be single, and after decades together, who can blame them? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this problem, but I do my best to foster excitement for things to come. At the very least, I help my clients avoid channeling that lost feeling into fights over cookware because I know that prolonging a divorce is not the same thing as prolonging a meaningful, positive relationship with your ex.
Couples Over 50 Often Have More Property and Income
A great thing about getting older is that we’ve had some time to establish ourselves, and we hopefully have something to show for our hard work. Those of us in the over-50 crowd are a lot more likely to be homeowners, and while that’s great, it also can seriously complicate a divorce. Your house will definitely have to be appraised, and it might even have to be sold in order to fairly divide up what you and your spouse own.
You probably figured as much about your property, but you may not have realized that something similar may be going on with your income. The calculations don’t really get trickier just by virtue of your paychecks getting bigger, but you may have income streams that you didn’t realize go into spousal support decisions.
For instance, if you or your spouse is receiving Social Security, that might affect how much spousal support you’ll give or receive. Additionally, having been in a long-term marriage greatly increases the likelihood that you or your spouse will be eligible for support in the first place, and influences how long one of you will be required to continue paying it.
For these reasons, you might want to avoid a completely DIY divorce and pay for at least a little bit of guidance. This doesn’t have to mean you hire a lawyer; I’m admittedly pricey. Did you know that nowadays you can get divorced on the web?
If There Are Children of the Marriage, They’re Probably Adults by Now
You know how I pointed out that your toaster isn’t precious? Well, your children definitely are. That’s why custody and child support tend to be incredibly contentious, painful topics in so many divorces. Luckily for most women over 50, the kids are already out of the house, and time with them isn’t something that needs to be litigated.
This doesn’t mean that they won’t be a point of discussion at all, though. For example, if your kid is in college, neither you nor your spouse will be required to support them financially the way that you would be if they were still in high school. This means you might end up in a difficult negotiation regarding how you will be splitting up tuition.
At this age, you have the perspective to know that the lessons you take from this process and this marriage are priceless. You’ve earned them! So, carry them with you to whatever comes next, and greet the new with all of the strength and poise that I know you’ve got in you.
Have you been through a divorce or are you going through one? Let us know your thoughts, feelings, and questions at the bottom of the page.
Attorney Laura Allison Wasser (LAW) is an author, entrepreneur, and family law expert with over 20 years of experience. Laura has made it her mission to change the uncontested divorce process by creating It’s Over Easy, an online divorce service that gives divorcing couples an accessible and affordable resource to dissolve their marriage.