On the whole, the divorce rate is falling in the United States. However, this isn’t true across all sectors. Over the last 20 years, the divorce rate for people aged 50 and over has more than doubled.
There are many different reasons for the uptick in these so-called “gray divorces.” Part of the reason comes from the fact that the baby boomer generation tends to have different views on marriage than their predecessors. Baby boomers are more likely to view marriage as something done for personal fulfillment. As a result, they are less hesitant to divorce if they grow unhappy.
Many couples also find themselves growing apart after so many years together. After the children have grown up and moved out, it is not unusual for couples to discover that they no longer have much in common with each other.
Interestingly, approximately two-thirds of “gray divorces” are initiated by women. Now that women have established themselves in the workforce, many older women are finding that they are able to support themselves and lead independent lives without needing to rely on their husbands.
As with all age groups, infidelity is also a major reason for divorce among older Americans.
Retirement Accounts In Texas Divorces
Divorces among older couples do present some unique concerns. Chief among them is dividing retirement accounts and pension plans when one or both spouses either has retired or is nearing retirement age.
Dividing retirement accounts is a very complex process that can have significant tax implications. As such, it is very important for older Texans considering divorce to seek the counsel of an experienced divorce attorney. Even small mistakes can have major financial consequences.
Generally speaking, retirement savings that occurred during the marriage are treated as marital property and will be divided equitably between the two spouses in a divorce. However, anything put into the retirement account before the marriage will not be considered marital property, though any increase in value that occurred during the marriage might be.
The process for dividing a retirement account will be different depending on what type of account it is. For example, 401(k), 403(b) and similar accounts are controlled by federal law, while state law governs the distribution of IRAs. Military and government pensions also follow their own rules.
It is important to understand that most divorce orders, by themselves, do not do enough to protect a divorcee’s right to his or her spouse’s retirement accounts. For that reason, older divorcees can benefit significantly from obtaining a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. A QDRO allows retirement funds to be separated, withdrawn and redeposited into a new retirement account.
If you are approaching retirement age and thinking about getting a divorce, it is important to take steps to protect yourself. Talk to an experienced Fort Worth family law attorney who can help you achieve your divorce goals.