Collaboration over litigation: Navigating a divorce over the age of 50

The last of your children have gone off to college. You are over the age of 50 and are looking forward to that next stage in life when you can kick your heels up a bit before retirement. Then suddenly, your life is turned upside down when your spouse announces that he or she wants a divorce.

This scenario is not unusual. Research published in The Journals of Gerontology found that 1 in 4 people getting a divorce in the United States is over the age of 50, and more than half of those “gray divorces” occur after 20 years of marriage.

Divorce at any age can be complicated, but it is often more complicated as individuals near retirement or are already in retirement. The reason for this is that marital assets, including retirement accounts, will be divided in the divorce and you don’t have decades to regroup and rebuild. The ability to financially rebound from a “gray divorce” often depends on the level of the parties’ incomes, the type and amount of their retirement assets, and the value of other assets that the parties have acquired during the marriage.

Because “gray divorces” have the potential to wreak havoc on a person’s retirement plans and lifestyle, it is important to consider all of your options before making the decision to divorce:

  • Can the marriage be saved or is it irreconcilably broken?
  • Are there sufficient marital assets available to divide that the divorce will not leave the parties in financial ruins?
  • Are the parties still employed or are they in retirement?
  • Do they each have sufficient income to support themselves?
  • Do either of the parties have a medical condition that is expected to significantly shorten his or her life expectancy?

For those that conclude that their only option is divorce, they should retain a divorce attorney, who has experience representing individuals in “gray divorces” and has a toolkit to ensure the best financial outcome for your future.

Litigation often is not the most effective way to achieve this because of the expense and the uncertainty of leaving the final decision in the hands of a judge who has limited time to hear and decide the issues and may not have the financial background to understand all of the complexities of your matter.

In my experience, the Collaborative Law process often provides a better format for the “gray divorce.”

In a Collaborative Divorce, the attorneys are specially trained in the Collaborative Law process. The parties and their attorneys contractually agree to voluntarily share all documents and information needed for the matter. They also agree that if the parties are unable to fully resolve the matter through the Collaborative Law process, their attorneys will not represent them in the subsequent divorce litigation.

The Collaborative Divorce process allows the parties to explore more options and be creative so they can walk away from the negotiation table having been heard and their concerns addressed in a manner that can be beneficial for both of them. When necessary, financial and other professionals may be utilized to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. By the time that the parties reach a settlement, they will have a clear understanding of how they will be able to move forward financially after the divorce. Often, the Collaborative Divorce process can save time and money over litigation.

About Dana McKee

Dana McKee is trained in Collaborative Law and has experience representing parties over 50 years of age in Collaborative Divorces as well as the more traditional litigated divorce cases. A partner at Brown, Goldstein & Levy, she is one of the foremost family law and divorce attorneys in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area. If you are considering a divorce and are concerned about your financial future, call Dana at (410) 962-1030 to schedule a consultation to explore your options.

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