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3 things to consider during a gray divorce

Divorce is difficult for any couple, but it can be especially tricky for those who have been married a long time. The divorce rate for couples who are 50 and older has increased over the past two decades, and it’s important to know how these divorces could differ from younger marriages.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you consider a gray divorce.

1. Retirement needs for both spouses will need to be discussed

Particularly for couples where one spouse was the sole breadwinner and the other spouse stayed home, dividing retirement funds in gray divorce will be important. Massachusetts is a “marital property” state, which means all possessions and interests acquired during the marriage by either party must be divided equitably.

If one spouse doesn’t have a retirement account because the other spouse was saving the totality of the couple’s retirement funds, those assets will need to be divided between the two.

If spouses cannot come to an agreement themselves, the courts will make the decision on how to divide property. They’ll consider the age and health of each spouse, their jobs and future employability, sources of income, the length of the marriage and more.

2. Alimony may look different for you than it did for your friends

Because of the new tax law signed in late December 2017, changes to how alimony affects taxes are coming for any couple that concludes divorce proceedings after December 31, 2018. Payers of alimony will no longer be able to deduct that income from their taxes, while recipients will now be able to include the income as tax-deductible.

As a result, couples who anticipate alimony being part of their divorce proceedings will either want to finalize agreements this year or work with a lawyer who understands tax law to help develop a plan that avoids an overwhelming tax burden for either party.

3. No child custody or support needed, but family should still be considered

Children of a gray divorce are likely long out of the house by now and may have families of their own. However, they will still have questions and needs from both parents during the divorce. How will family holidays be spent? How does each party want time with grandchildren divided? Are family traditions ending?

As you work with your spouse on the divorce, keep in mind how decisions will affect your grown children and possibly your grandchildren, and discuss your wishes with them to foster open communication from the start.

Gray divorce can be complicated, but as long as couples are considerate and patient about the ways ending a long-term marriage can affect both parties, it can also be a refreshing opportunity for happiness in later years.

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