If you are considering a divorce during your senior years, you are not alone. According to recent reports from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research and the Pew Research Center, senior divorce rates have increased significantly in recent years.
When getting divorced as a senior citizen, many aspects of the process are no different than they are for anyone else. However, there are some unique considerations as well. As you begin to prepare for the process, here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
9 Key Considerations for Getting Divorced as a Senior Citizen
1. Identifying Separate Property
Under California’s community property law, divorcing spouses’ assets are divided into two categories: separate property and community property. While community property assets are subject to division, any assets that qualify as your separate property are yours to keep. The longer you are married, the more difficult it can become to identify the assets that qualify as your (or your spouse’s) separate property. But, due to the implications of an asset being improperly classified as community property, identifying your separate property will be an important early step in the divorce process.
2. Protecting Your Retirement Income
For many divorcing seniors, preserving their retirement income is a top priority. While retirement accounts are subject to the same community property rules as other types of assets, there are some unique issues involved in protecting or dividing a retirement plan under California law.
3. Deciding Where to Live
Where will you live after your divorce? Is it important to you to remain in your current home; or, are you prepared to relocate (and perhaps obtain a new mortgage and go through the process of buying new furniture)? If you need help around the house, it will be important to address this concern during your divorce as well.
4. Updating Your Estate Plan
If your estate plan leaves some or all of your assets to your spouse or designates your spouse as your health care surrogate, you will likely want to modify your plan sooner rather than later.
5. Calculating Spousal Support
Length of marriage, financial need, and earning potential are among the most-significant factors involved in calculating spousal support in California. Spousal support can be a central issue in divorces between older spouses, and you will need to be sure to maintain adequate financial resources after your divorce.
6. Mitigating Tax Liability
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is going to have a significant impact on divorces finalized after December 31, 2018. There are various other tax considerations involved in getting divorced as well, and mitigating tax liability takes on heightened importance for seniors with large estates.
7. Health and Life Insurance
Overlooking insurance needs during a divorce can be a costly mistake. As a senior, it is critical to ensure that you have adequate health insurance coverage, and you will need to appropriately address your (or your spouse’s) life insurance policy as well.
8. Physical Asset Valuation
In order to arrive at an equitable division of your community property, you will need to obtain an accurate valuation of your home, collections, and any valuable physical assets. It is not unusual for divorcing spouses to disagree on proper valuations, and working with a qualified expert will help ensure that you receive an appropriate share of your marital estate in your divorce.
9. Impact of a Prior Divorce
Finally, if you or your spouse is in a second (or subsequent) marriage, it will be important to assess what impact, if any, this will have on the outcome of your divorce. For example, any pre-existing alimony obligation could reduce your (or your spouse’s) available income for paying additional spousal support.
Request a Confidential Case Evaluation with North County Divorce Attorney Richard M. Renkin
Richard M. Renkin is a North County divorce attorney and Certified Family Law Specialist who has decades of experience representing divorcing spouses in California. If you are a senior living in the North County area and you are contemplating a divorce, you can call 619-299-7100 or inquire online to request a confidential case evaluation.