Divorce can occur at any adult age, but its consequences can be more financially destructive the older that we get.
We usually hit our financial peak after middle age. And if you have been married for more than a decade but nearing retirement age, then both parties could be emotionally invested in the marriage.
If you are nearing retirement age or already retired, and about to divorce, do these four things now.
Get an attorney
Divorce and retirement account rules and laws differ from state to state. If you are retired and soon to divorce, you need to know how to protect yourself as much as possible.
Hire a good attorney with experience in divorce law and retirement or pension law. You don’t want to guess how divorcing after retirement affects your life and finances.
You may amicably divorce after retirement, which is fine. But starting over life and trying to find someone new while in your 60s can be an emotionally traumatizing experience.
While your spouse may be amicable at first, the reality of the situation may hit them hard later. And they may cease to be amicable if they get a lawyer first and learn how beneficial a divorce could be in their favor.
You may have to change or divide up a retirement account you owned for decades.
Don’t even consider getting divorced near or after retirement without consulting an attorney.
Reassess Social Security benefits
There are numerous ways that Social Security benefits can benefit a spouse. Did you know that your spouse could receive half of your Social Security benefits as death benefits after your passing?
Based on your age, working history, and the age of your spouse, your spouse may also qualify for a spousal benefit.
And your spouse could receive Social Security “spousal benefits” even after your divorce and even if you remarry later! As long as you were married for over a decade, your spouse is 62 or older, and the spouse is unmarried, they could still continue receiving spousal benefits.
Make sure that your attorney reassesses your Social Security benefits before you get divorced.
Review important financial documents
The time to look over important documents is not after the divorce is finalized. And that is especially true if you are nearing retirement.
Is your soon-to-be-ex-spouse listed as a beneficiary in your will or estate plan? Do you have shared investments and assets? Do you share a financial investment portfolio or land?
Have your attorney read every line of your pension or retirement account documents. Almost all of them come with a spousal benefit clause. Your soon-to-be-ex-spouse may be entitled to a significant portion of your pension according to some contract fine print you never bothered to read before.
Who keeps the house and household assets?
Retirement is hard, especially if you are on a fixed income or will lose money and assets due to divorce.
Do not assume that your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will amicably divide up or share your finances and assets. Your state and city laws determine who gets what in a divorce.
Focus on the future
Hopefully, your retirement-age divorce will be amicable. Even if it is not, try to focus on the future.
Even though retirement is often considered the “twilight years,” you still have many years of living left to do.
Don’t let a late-in-life divorce define who you are; get counseling if needed, think ahead, and focus on the future.