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The High Cost of Breaking Up Later in Life

Author: Alexis Garcia

divorce court with wedding rings next to gavelSome things get simpler as you get older, but divorce is not one of them. Couples in their 50s and beyond who decide to part ways should be prepared for lots of work – and expense – as they unweave the years they spent together. By midlife, couples may have accumulated assets such as art and second homes, and a thicket of financial accounts. While they were prosperous as a couple, both may feel like they are taking a major hit financially when they divide these assets. Older divorcees sometimes find they have to, at least temporarily, lower their standard of living or postpone retirement. A prenuptial or postnuptial agreement may be useful in governing the division of assets in the event of the divorce; however, such agreements are not failproof as they may face enforceability issues if the agreement is one-sided or one party lacks independent legal counsel during its negotiation.

Here are some of the issues you and your attorney will have to address.

Retirement accounts

In general, what’s yours is mine is the rule when it comes to retirement accounts. While one party may regard the money saved in a retirement account as the fruits of their labor, the court will see this as an asset accumulated during the marriage, and thus belonging to both spouses. That does not necessarily mean a retirement account will be split down the middle, but it will be considered as part of the aggregate assets to be divided. One important consideration is the tax consequences of making an early withdrawal from a retirement account and that may become part of the divorce calculus. A pension also can be part of the asset mix. As with other types of assets, any part of a retirement account that accrued before the marriage likely won’t be subject to the division of marital assets.

The family business

This can be one of the most difficult issues in a divorce for mature couples. They may have worked hard over many years to build a business and now they are faced with the prospect of one party wanting to liquidate his or her share. Taking money out of the business may depend on the type of corporate entity that holds the business and the shareholder agreement, which often place conditions on any transfer of ownership shares. For instance, can one spouse sell his or her share in the business to another party? Is there a market for the business? We’ve seen couples stay in business together after they leave the marriage because there is no viable path to selling a half interest. As with retirement accounts, the law doesn’t require you to divide the business, but it will take into account the business in assessing the total assets accumulated in the marriage.

Alimony

Georgia law doesn’t provide specific instructions for when to award alimony or how to calculate the amount, but there are various factors that a court will consider. For instance, typically, alimony is awarded if the wife stayed home during a long marriage and does not have skills that would ease her into the workforce. The duration of the marriage also is a factor, and a long marriage will be considered more deserving of alimony while a short union with two working spouses usually isn’t a candidate for alimony. A court usually will not require life-long alimony, but it may deem it appropriate during an interim period so that a spouse can acclimate to living independently. A health condition that prevents one spouse from working and contributions to the marriage such as sacrificing a career to run a household and raise children are also effective arguments for alimony. As with everything else, alimony will be considered in the totality of the divorce settlement.

As with a divorce at any stage of life, couples eventually recover emotionally and financially, but steel yourself for what likely will be a long process of sorting through your finances and making decisions on how to divide them.

Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery welcomes the opportunity to learn about your legal needs and provide more detail on what services we offer. For more information about how Boyd Collar Nolen Tuggle & Roddenbery can help you, please contact us by filling out a form or give us a call at 770.953.4300.

About The Author

Alexis Garcia Associate

Alexis Garcia handles all types of family law matters, with a focus on complex divorce litigation, child custody and support disputes, and paternity and legitimation. Alexis helps clients navigate the difficult divorce process with a combination of personalized service and a passion for delivering the best outcomes for her clients. She advocates for her clients Read More

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