Milwaukee Divorce Lawyer Talks About Gray Divorce: Unique Challenges for Wisconsin Divorcing Couples Over Age 50

May 23, 2024 Divorce

Divorce at any age presents its own set of challenges, but for couples over the age of 50 in Wisconsin, the process can be particularly complex. Often referred to as “gray divorce,” the dissolution of marriage later in life comes with its own unique considerations and hurdles. Here are some of the key challenges faced by divorcing couples in Wisconsin who are over 50:

Financial Complications

For couples who have spent decades building their assets together, untangling finances can be daunting. Wisconsin is a community property state, meaning that marital property is typically divided equally in a divorce. However, equitable distribution doesn’t always mean a 50/50 split, and determining what constitutes marital property versus separate property can be contentious, especially when retirement accounts, investments, and real estate are involved.

Alimony and Spousal Support

In Wisconsin, spousal support (or “maintenance”) may be awarded based on factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, and contributions to the marriage. For couples over 50, one spouse may have sacrificed career opportunities to support the other’s professional pursuits or to raise children, making spousal support a crucial consideration, especially if one spouse has significantly lower earning potential or has been out of the workforce for an extended period. Parties over the age of 50 are also often in the twilights of their careers and are eyeing retirement—making it difficult to calculate income and expenses if one or both parties stop working.

Retirement Accounts and Pension Plans:

Dividing retirement accounts and pension plans can be complex, particularly if one or both spouses have substantial assets tied up in these accounts. Wisconsin law recognizes retirement benefits as marital property subject to division, but calculating and dividing these assets requires careful consideration of tax implications, valuation methods, and future income needs. Spouses over age 50 may still be too young to draw on their retirement assets without penalties and adverse tax consequences, however, they may also need access to the funds in these accounts to finance their post-divorce standard of living. Understanding what is or is not possible under a particular retirement plan is crucial before finalizing any divorce agreement.

Healthcare and Insurance

Healthcare costs can skyrocket for individuals over 50, especially if they’re facing divorce and suddenly lose access to a spouse’s health insurance coverage. Navigating options for continued coverage, such as COBRA or private insurance plans, can add another layer of complexity to an already stressful situation. Parties who are over 50 and divorcing should include an estimate for uninsured medical costs in their budgets and should familiarize themselves with the age at which they become eligible for Medicare and the benefits available to them under that plan.

Estate Planning Revisions

Divorce often necessitates updating estate plans, wills, and beneficiary designations to reflect new circumstances and wishes. Couples over 50 may have complex estate planning documents in place, and untangling shared assets and revising plans for inheritance and healthcare directives can be a delicate process. Parties over 50 often have adult children or grandchildren to consider. Parties over 50 may also be previously married and have children they do not share with their current spouse. These family dynamics in family law cases can complicate revising the parties’ estate plans and health care directives and must be taken into consideration when negotiating a fair divorce settlement.

Emotional and Social Support Networks

Uncontested divorce or a contested divorce later in life can be emotionally challenging, especially when it coincides with significant life changes such as retirement, an empty nest, or health issues. Unlike younger divorcing couples who may have living parents to lean on for support in uncontested divorces and child support, older couples may find themselves navigating the emotional terrain of divorce without the same level of familial or social support, making it crucial to seek out counseling or join support groups tailored to their unique needs to talk about their legal separation, divorce mediation, or other family law issues with divorce attorneys.

Impact on Adult Children

While the divorce process can be disruptive for minor children of any age, (especially if child custody is involved) adult children may also feel the effects of their parents’ separation, particularly if they’re called upon to provide emotional support or financial support or to mediate family conflicts and other family law matters. Older children may also worry about the financial implications of their parents’ divorce, especially if it affects their inheritance, property division, or their ability to provide care for aging parents through the divorce proceedings.

Transitioning to Single Life

Finally, adjusting to life as a single person over the age of 50 can be a significant transition, emotionally, financially, and socially. Older adults may face challenges related to loneliness, dating, reentering the workforce, or rediscovering their identity outside of the marriage.

Conclusion: Family Law Attorneys Help With Gray Divorce

In conclusion, divorcing couples over the age of 50 in Milwaukee, WI, and other areas of Wisconsin face a distinct set of challenges that can be assisted by a divorce attorney, from untangling complex financial assets to navigating emotional upheaval and adjusting to life’s new realities. Seeking support from experienced Milwaukee divorce lawyers and leaning on friends, family, and support networks can help couples navigate the complexities of gray divorce in Milwaukee County with greater resilience and confidence.