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Worcester Family Law Blog

Divorce after 50 can be difficult for women

While the overall divorce rate in Massachusetts and across the United States has declined and stabilized since the 1980s, divorce among individuals over the age of 50 is on the rise. In fact, statistics show that divorce rates among older couples doubled between 1990 and 2010. Experts say the phenomenon, known as "gray divorce," impacts the financial security of women more than men, and women divorcees should take protective measures to ensure that they enjoy a stable retirement.

Gray divorce can be more financially devastating than divorces that happen early in life because there is less time to regain a financial footing. Women who divorce after 50 can be especially susceptible to financial issues, especially if they stepped away from their career to be a stay-at-home parent. Studies show that 27 percent of women who divorce after 50 live in poverty, compared to 11 percent of men in that age group.

Mediation, collaboration and uncontested divorce

Massachusetts couples who are getting a divorce have options for deciding property division, child custody and support beyond going to court. Mediation, collaboration and an uncontested divorce is often less expensive, less stressful and less time-consuming than litigation. One problem that may arise during litigation is that each person may be angry enough to try to punish the other person through legal means, and this could result in both parties incurring more debt after their divorce than they had to start.

For couples who are in conflict but who want to try to avoid litigation, mediation might be an alternative. A mediator uses conflict resolution techniques to help a couple reach an agreement. Couples who have more issues to work through might take the collaborative approach. This involves bringing in a number of professionals to work with the family on different aspects of the divorce. For example, attorneys, financial advisers and mental health professionals might all participate in a collaborative divorce.

Dividing the family home in a divorce

Massachusetts couples who are heading toward divorce and who own a home together might wonder how they will split it. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of property division, and simply agreeing that one party or the other will get the house as part of the divorce does not remove either spouse from mortgage obligations.

The person who keeps the home will need to be approved by the lender once again. It might be necessary at this point to pay a larger down payment or to have someone cosign on the loan.

Financial planning and preparing for divorce

Married couples in Massachusetts are not always on the same page when it comes to financial planning. Often, one spouse will handle the finances while the other spouse remains in the dark about the value of marital assets. When couples like this go through a divorce, the spouse with less financial awareness is often at a disadvantage during property division negotiations.

Some married spouses are brave enough to broach the uncomfortable topic of preparing their finances for the possibility of divorce. While planning for a divorce may be too fatalistic for others, couples may be wise to at least take joint responsibility of shared finances. This way, if there is an unexpected event that separates two married people, both spouses will be capable of handling their financial lives.

Later life divorce keeps overall divorce rates steady

Summer is wedding season, but as Maryland couples are planning their nuptials, many others could be heading for divorce court. The divorce rate in the United States continues to hover around 50 percent, with older couples making up a large portion of that statistic.

The number of U.S. divorces hit a high in the 1980s, but in recent years it has dropped, according to government statistics. Despite that, sociologists predict a divorce rate of a little over 50 percent for current marriages. Younger people are staying married longer, making overall divorce rates lower than in the past. But the divorce rate for older couples is up. The divorce rate for people from 55 to 64 years of age doubled in the years between 1990 and 2012, and tripled for people over 65.

When prenups are unfair to one party

Massachusetts couples who plan on getting married might also want to consider a prenuptial agreement. This can be a valuable document that helps to protect the individual who comes into the marriage with more money and assets than the other one. However, it is important that the person with fewer assets and less money has some protection as well.

Too often, prenuptial agreements are drastically unfair to the party who enters the marriage with few or no assets. One example might be a spouse who is prohibited from ever receiving alimony regardless of their contributions to the marriage or family life. In one case, a prenuptial agreement was written in such a way that prevented the other spouse from accessing the other's assets even if the marriage ended naturally due to the death of the other spouse.

Divorce mediation assessment promotes co-parenting

The ending of a marriage between two parents often leaves them at odds over how to interact for the benefit of their children. Parents in Massachusetts often have difficulty keeping this focus at the forefront during divorce litigation. In cases where a failed relationship is the reason for the divorce, instead of allegations of child abuse or neglect, parents and children will benefit from honest assessment of failures as a prelude to the mediation process.

A family mediator and social psychologist explains that the divorce mediation assessment involves several questions that will bear strongly on the well-being of children. Questions tend to revolve around communication between the parents. For example, at the end of a marriage, parents need to ask themselves whether they expressed negative behavior or feelings in front of children and how the children reacted.

Differing state laws can influence divorce outcomes

While most states distinguish between marital and separate assets during a divorce, Massachusetts is one of the few states that generally does not make this distinction. This is just one of many state-specific issues to consider when faced with the end of a marriage. There is not a national standard for matters such as alimony, timing or property division, which means that peoplemust be aware of the rules and implications in their state as they consider filing for divorce.

Divorce litigation can range greatly in terms of timing. Some states impose significant periods of waiting before the finalization of the action. The start of the waiting period can also vary from state to state. In some locations, the start of this period is at the time a spouse moves out of the marital residence. In other cases, the period may initiate with the actual divorce filing.

Crowdfunding site offers divorce registry option

Massachusetts residents may be familiar with crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo that allow entrepreneurs and charities to raise much needed funds from the public. Sites such as these have been used to fund everything from college educations to foreign vacations, and divorcing couples can now take advantage of the crowdfunding phenomenon.

The costs can quickly mount during a divorce, and spouses with little in the way of savings sometimes find it difficult to cover their legal bills and other costs. A website that was set up to crowdfund honeymoons in 2006 added an option for divorcing couples in March 2016, and the site's operators say that more than 100 divorce registries were set up in the first two months that this option was available.

Financial priorities during a divorce

Massachusetts residents who are getting a divorce should plan ahead for the financial burden that will accompany it. In addition to legal fees and court costs, there are expenses such as moving into a new place and replacing all the things that were purchased during the marriage. In addition, a person may be required to pay child or spousal support.

One of the first things people who are facing the end of a marriage should do is take stock of their assets. This includes going over all financial accounts, getting passwords, photocopying documents and taking photos of possessions in the home. When considering attorneys, they should avoid someone who does not have family law experience even if the attorney is a friend or relative. They should also avoid an attorney who is overly aggressive or who tries to involve the children in the process.

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