You’ve probably heard the term “gray divorce,” which refers to an older couple (usually over 50) who decides to divorce. While these couples typically don’t have to be concerned with a parenting plan, as any children from the marriage are over 18, they can be complicated because of the assets they may have accumulated over the years.

There’s a recent article we happened upon from U.S. News and World Report, “Navigating Divorce in Retirement,” that provided some interesting insights on some questions that people investigating gray divorces might have

What do we do about the house?

It’s more likely than not that an older couple considering a divorce has a house with a significant level of equity. The article notes:

When the kids are young, the custodial parent is typically the one who stays in the family home. Once the kids are grown up, it may make more sense to sell the house and buy or rent two smaller places. If one or both spouses have a personal attachment to the house, there could be a more complex negotiation.

If the couple is in a collaborative divorce — which can be a very productive route for these couples to take — one party can agree to trade his or her stake in the house for some other asset that might be considered valuable. Whereas litigated cases can result in a house being sold, collaborative divorce allows for the couple and the lawyers to come up with creative solutions that keep assets intact.

What about spousal maintenance?

The article uses the term alimony and raises the possibility of it needing to be factored into the decree, “particularly if one spouse stayed home to take care of the kids while the other earned most of the income.” This is a topic that we’ve discussed prior in our blog from a few different perspectives. This article is a good place to start. As it notes:

Spousal maintenance requirements in the Texas Family Code largely depend on how long a couple was married prior to divorce. For couples married 10 to 20 years, it’s up to five years; for those married 20 to 30 years, it’s up to seven years; for those married 30 years or more, it’s 10 years. It’s also possible to apply spousal maintenance to marriages less than 10 years if family violence is involved.

Gray divorces, of course, often meet at least the 10-year threshold. But the Texas Family Code also holds that spousal maintenance is dependent on other factors, including “each spouse’s ability to provide for that spouse’s minimum reasonable needs independently, considering that spouse’s financial resources on dissolution of the marriage,” and “the education and employment skills of the spouses, the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to earn sufficient income, and the availability and feasibility of that education or training.”

What about retirement benefits?

Because Texas is a community property state, everything earned during the marriage is considered to belong to both people in the marriage. That brings up an interesting question on retirement question. The article notes:

Find out if you or your former spouse is entitled to a pension, and get a copy of the latest statement and the rules and regulations for the plan. Aim to get this information from your spouse or employer. However, you may need the help of a lawyer or mediator to collect and verify pension information and negotiate who gets what. Also, take a look at the retirement account balances you accumulated during the marriage, which may need to be divided.

If you started a job before you got married, you may have questions about whether part of the pension could be considered separate property. That, of course, highlights the necessity to bring in a lawyer … and perhaps also a financial professional who can work in tandem with a lawyer to make determinations on everything that is or isn’t community property for settling the divorce.

At the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance, we’ve built the expertise needed to handle gray divorces and the questions that accompany them. If you’re considering divorce, especially one where a number of valuable assets are in dispute, we can provide a consultation that will help you select the best route in moving forward.