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Gray Divorce in Missouri: Ultimate Guide to Divorce Over 50
“Gray divorce” is an informal term for divorce at an older age, typically past 50. Ending a marriage at this age has its own particular bearing on older adults. These include matters such as a couple’s accumulated marital assets, their insurance, and their retirement accounts. Below is our primer on gray divorce in Missouri. For legal advice specific to your situation, please reach out to our trusted divorce lawyer.
What is gray divorce? What makes gray divorce different?
Gray divorce is the termination of marriage when the spouses are middle-aged or older adults, usually older than 50. While a gray divorce follows the exact same procedure as any other divorce, it comes with emotional and financial issues that uniquely affect older spouses who will soon be single.
Emotionally, divorcing later in life can be anxiety-inducing. Spouses may grapple with questions like “What happens to me after getting divorced at my age?” In addition, couples who have been together for many years will naturally find it daunting to live their lives separately. If you’re going into a gray divorce, it’s helpful to have a trusted friend or therapist by your side to help you manage these emotions.
Financially, a gray divorce will likely affect the division of your assets, alimony, retirement outlook, insurance, and more. We discuss each of these in a section below.
How common are gray divorces?
Gray divorces have become more and more common throughout the decades. Pew Research revealed that from 1990 to 2015, the divorce rate specifically among 50-year-olds and older has doubled, despite general divorce rates decreasing in the US. A 2022 review of US Census data also showed that 36 percent of Americans getting divorced are aged 50 and older.
There are various reasons why more Baby Boomers are filing for divorce. For example:
- The couple may have waited until their children were grown before divorcing.
- The couple may have found that there’s much less stigma around divorce these days.
- The couple may simply have realized at this stage that their marriage is no longer working.
A gray divorce can be deeply personal but it does have legal considerations. If you need good legal advice, please don’t hesitate to talk to our divorce attorney at Shea Kohl Law.
How is property divided in a Missouri gray divorce?
In a Missouri divorce – whether gray divorce or otherwise – property division is not automatically 50-50. Instead, our courts aim for an equitable distribution, meaning each party should get their fair share according to many factors examined by the judge.
First, the divorcing couple must distinguish their marital property from their separate property. Marital assets are those that the spouses acquired during their marriage, and will be split during divorce. Separate assets, on the other hand, are solely owned by each respective spouse and cannot be divided.
Commingling of assets
A common complication is when separate assets are commingled with marital assets. For instance, one party may have bought the house before getting married, but during the wedding, their spouse contributed to the home’s renovations. Or, one party started a business when they were single, but during the marriage, their spouse helped the business grow. It will be difficult to establish how much of these assets remain separate.
Sentimentality in property division
Emotions also play a role in gray divorce property division, especially if the marriage lasted a long time. Many spouses will be sentimental over their marital home or other shared belongings. They may also think about assets to pass on to their children. With such sentiments, the property division process is often highly disputed.
If you’re heading towards an older-age divorce, it’s wise to consult a financial advisor as soon as you can to protect your hard-earned assets. When you work with us at Shea Kohl Law, we’ll tap into our network of financial experts to help untangle property issues while prioritizing your rights.
Spousal support: What happens to my income after a gray divorce?
In many divorce cases, one spouse is entitled to alimony while the other is obligated to pay it. The main purpose of alimony (also called spousal support or maintenance) is to enable both parties to sustain a living standard that’s close to what they’re used to. If one spouse is disadvantaged due to their lack of employment, for instance, the court will likely award that spouse a level of support.
Is age a factor in determining alimony?
In Missouri, age may factor into the judge’s decision on how much alimony to award and for how long. For example, if a dependent spouse is at an age where they can no longer provide for themselves, the judge may lean towards a longer-term maintenance award.
Does Missouri consider the length of marriage in determining alimony?
Though this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, judges in Missouri may consider the length of marriage in making alimony decisions. One example is if one spouse was focused on home-keeping for several decades and thus became financially dependent on their partner for a long time. They may be able to persuade the judge to grant a favorable support order.
How will gray divorce affect my retirement?
In most cases, retirement accounts are created during the marriage, thus they are marital property and will be divided upon divorce. In Missouri, the judge will try to give each spouse an equitable or fair share of this asset.
How a retirement account is divided during divorce
To divide a 401(k) account or pension plan, a judge will typically issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO). This document contains the court’s instructions to the administrator of the retirement plan, establishing that the plan-holder’s spouse has a claim to a portion of the account.
The QDRO allows either or both spouses to take money from their retirement plan. If they are pre-retirement age (younger than 59.5 years old), the QDRO should also allow them to withdraw money without early-withdrawal penalty from the IRS. This way, the spouse of the plan-holder may start to receive payments after divorce, even if they haven’t retired yet.
What happens to my health insurance after a gray divorce?
Once divorce is final, the dependent spouse will no longer be covered by their spouse’s health plan. If you are at least 65 years old, you may be eligible for Medicare under your former spouse’s record. Otherwise, you may need to find other options to pay for your own health insurance.
This is such an important factor for some couples that they choose to postpone their divorce and go through legal separation instead. Legal separation allows a couple to divvy up their property and live apart, while staying married under the law. Because they remain legal spouses, their health plan will still cover both of them. Talk to us at Shea Kohl Law to see what options are best for your situation.
Will a gray divorce affect my Social Security?
Social Security benefits will not be divided during divorce. However, a lesser-earning ex-spouse may be able to claim benefits under their former spouse’s work record. If you’re the lesser-earning spouse, these are the basic criteria to be eligible for spousal social security benefits after divorce:
- You are at least 62 years old.
- Your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
- You did not remarry after your divorce.
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security disability or retirement benefits.
- Your ex-spouse’s benefits are greater than the benefits you would get under your own work record.
Social Security has many complex rules. Before making any decisions, it helps to consult an experienced divorce lawyer to navigate this area towards favorable outcomes.
How will a gray divorce affect my estate plan?
Divorce of any kind should prompt you to revisit your estate plan. You may want to change certain provisions in your will, such as the transfer of assets to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You may also take specific measures to protect your children’s inheritance, such as by setting up a trust for them.
In addition, if you’ve previously set up powers of attorney (POA) or any advanced directive, it’s worth reviewing as you head into divorce.
Many estate plans designate the spouse as the agent with POA. In Missouri, a spouse’s power of attorney automatically ends once divorce is filed, and a successor agent will have to take over the POA. You’ll have to ensure that your successor agent is someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, should the need arise.
Can I get a gray divorce if my spouse is not mentally competent?
Missouri courts require that divorcing parties have the mental capacity to consent to divorce. If you wish to get divorced but your spouse’s mental capacity is in question, you will need to show the court a verification of their competency. This involves presenting medical evidence and possibly a doctor’s testimony to prove that your spouse is mentally capable of going through divorce on their own volition.
If, however, the judge finds that your spouse is not sufficiently competent, you may try to find out if your spouse has designated a third party with financial power of attorney. Another option is to ask the court to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for your spouse. The GAL will represent your spouse’s best interests throughout the divorce.
Mental incapacity or any disability is one factor that makes a gray divorce difficult. If this applies to your situation, it’s best to have an experienced attorney on your side to provide sound legal guidance.
Do I need a special attorney for a gray divorce?
You don’t need a specific type of divorce attorney if you’re going into a gray divorce. However, it will be crucial for your lawyer to be knowledgeable in finances and estate planning. Our discussions above show the many aspects of a gray divorce that require smart legal strategies so that you are protected in your post-divorce life.
The divorce services at Shea Kohl Law are ideal if you are divorcing at an older age. Our divorce attorneys are backed by decades of experience in Family Law as well as in estate planning in Missouri. We also have the support of financial experts who help us strategize for our clients’ best financial future. With our legal guidance and representation, we can help you fight for the divorce outcomes you are entitled to.
Contact a Gray Divorce Attorney at Shea Kohl Law
Our divorce lawyers at Shea Kohl Law have earned the trust of clients in the St. Charles, Missouri area. With over 100 years of combined experience, we’ve fought to protect the rights and entitlements of our clients, while treating them with family-like understanding.
Talk to us about your gray divorce plans. Call Shea Kohl Law at (636) 946-9999 today.
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