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Protecting your assets in a "gray divorce"

The rate of baby boomer divorces continues to rise in the United States. Over the last quarter-century, Americans older than 50 have gotten divorced at twice the rate of those in that age group prior to 1990. For those who are older than 65, the divorce rates are even higher.

Traditionally, this has been a population considered to have had more marital stability. If couples managed to soldier on through the lean, early years of marriage that left them frazzled from child-rearing, most expected to enjoy peaceful relationships together in their golden years. Yet, this is not proving to be the case for many husbands and wives in the era of the "Gray Divorce."

What changed?

People's attitudes toward divorce have changed markedly in recent decades. This is apparent even in the notoriously conservative Roman Catholic Church, as evidenced by the surprisingly liberal views of Pope Francis regarding Catholic divorce and even remarriage. Most people understand that life is too short to remain yoked to someone when both are clearly miserable.

Another important factor is that wives are no longer completely dependent upon their husbands for their economic survival. When faced with the choice of living alone in abject poverty, or comfortably, but in a loveless marriage, it's understandable that women in past eras clung to their material comforts even as their marriages withered. Women who can support themselves, however, can envision futures where they achieve self-fulfillment, and even discover potential new romances.

Let your head rule your heart

It's commonly said about many endeavors to "follow your heart," but when in the midst of a divorce, it's your head that should be guiding you. Since it can be difficult to turn your emotions off like a tap, getting legal advice from a family law professional can help you protect your share of valuable marital assets. Below are some important considerations when divvying up the spoils of a marriage.

  • Splitting the retirement accounts. If only one spouse worked or has a pension, under New York's equitable distribution laws, the other spouse is still entitled to a portion of those funds.
  • The family home is a valuable asset, but in many cases, insisting on keeping it for sentimental reasons can leave you at a distinct financial disadvantage.
  • Spousal support, while no longer a given, is still frequently awarded to spouses who divorce after marriages of long duration break up.

Going forward after a gray divorce doesn't have to be a traumatic experience, as there are many possibilities out there for those with open minds and hearts. By leaving your marriage with as many intact assets and resources as possible, you are better poised to take full advantage of the next phase of your life.

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