Middle-aged divorce is increasingly common in Massachusetts and across the country. In fact, 45.5 was the average age for divorce in the United States in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From 2008 through 2016, the age range with the highest divorce rate was 55 to 64.
The reason behind high divorce rates for middle-aged Americans remains largely unknown. Every couple is different and will have their own reasons for divorcing, some of which only they will understand. Infidelity, poor communication, arguing, unrealistic expectations, financial problems, differences of opinion, abuse, and simply “growing apart” have all been used as explanations for divorce at all ages, and these answers are no different for middle-aged couples.
Higher divorce rates for middle-aged couples may have something to do with children who are now older and more independent, even if they have not yet moved out of the family home. It may be related to couples who have spent over a decade together and are realizing that they want different things. It may have something to do with changes in careers, or couples finding that they have less in common once they are no longer raising their children together. These are all theories, however, and in the end, the reason behind a divorce is not as important as the outcome.
People who divorce in middle age are more likely to face certain challenges than their younger counterparts. When you are in your 40s, 50s, or early 60s, you’re more likely to have assets like a house, motor vehicles, investment and retirement accounts, and pensions. It is also likely that you’ll have more debt. You may have children as well, and although your children may be teenagers or even grown and out of the house, you might need to deal with issues like custody or support.
Property & Debt When Divorcing in Your 40s or 50s
A middle-aged divorce is more likely to include assets and debt, and this can be challenging to sort out. Ownership in a family business or contributions to a spouse’s career can further complicate things. A spouse who has spent most of the last decade or so as a homemaker can find it difficult to get a job. These are all factors that you should consider as you approach your divorce.
The following assets may need to be addressed in a middle-aged divorce:
- Marital home
- Vacation home
- Rental property
- Motor vehicles
- Retirement accounts
- Investment accounts
- Business property
- Recreational vehicles
- Checking accounts
- Savings accounts
- Professional practices
- Other business interests
The only exceptions may be property that was acquired prior to the marriage or that was inherited or gifted. Read our blog on property division in Massachusetts.
Middle-Aged Divorce Is More Likely to Involve Older Children
A middle-aged couple is more likely to have older children, perhaps in their teenage years or in college. If children are minors under the age of 18, or if they are still attending college, the issue of child support will need to be handled. Child custody will also need to be arranged if they are under 18 and living at home. This can be particularly complicated with older children, who may have very strong opinions about which parent they want to live with. In fact, their preference may influence a court’s custody decisions. To learn more, check out our blog on custody and a child’s preference.
Helpful Tips for a Massachusetts Divorce in Middle Age
If you and your spouse are divorcing, there are a few things you can do to make the process easier. The good news is that you probably know what you want and why you’re divorcing. Take advantage of that and be clear in your communication and negotiations with your spouse. Try to take a non-argumentative approach where possible, avoiding a courtroom battle and opting for mediation or arbitration instead. The process is more likely to be less stressful—and cheaper—if you can avoid court. If you simply can’t agree or if your spouse is attempting to commit wrongdoings, however, it might be time to consider court intervention.
Here are a few other tips for approaching and getting through a middle-aged divorce:
- Keep a detailed inventory of assets and debt, so nothing is missed.
- If it makes sense to you, think about giving up the family home and starting fresh.
- Take the time to consider the tax consequences of your divorce and alimony arrangement.
- Don’t forget to address any support you will need to provide for children, even if they’re grown.
- Never hide assets! It’s illegal and could result in your spouse getting more than he/she would have.
- Talk to an attorney as early in the process as possible, so you know what to expect and what to do from the start.
Ready to get more insight? Call our Massachusetts divorce attorneys at (508) 502-7002 today to find out how we can help.