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How Does Age Factor Into Divorce?

By George Khoury, Esq. | Last updated on

There have been numerous studies apparently showing the correlation between a person's age when they get married and their likelihood of getting divorced. However, age only tends to factor into the legal logistics of divorces when there is a significant age gap or the couple is nearing retirement. A person's age can have big impacts on the financial and practical considerations in a divorce.

If a older couple decides to divorce, their respective ages can be an important factor to be considered as it relates not just to their health, but also to their retirement benefits. Also, if there is a significant age gap between spouses, there may be income and health disparity, and considerations regarding the length of time alimony should last.

Spousal Support, Division of Property, and Custody Matters

When it comes to alimony and custody matters, age can play an important factor in both. Usually spousal support is meant to be temporary in order to allow a less financially able spouse to maintain the same standard of living after marriage as they did during, but only until they can support themselves.

If a spouse is near retirement or already passed retirement age, an alimony order may be made permanent as a court could find that it is unreasonable to expect someone advanced in age to be able to learn new skills to support themselves if they never did during the marriage. A planned receipt of retirement benefits or social security, however, could also impact alimony and the separation of assets.

Child custody and division of property could also be affected if there is a large age gap between spouses. An older spouse may not be able to keep up with, or take care of, the children as well, which a court might consider when deciding what is in the child's best interest. Also, who gets the marital home can also be impacted by the parties' ages, if one spouse is physically unable to move residences, or needs to stay in the home for medical or other reasons.

Pensions, Social Security, and Retirement Benefits Matter More

For older couples that divorce, retirement benefits are a much bigger deal as they are closer to retirement, or already retired, and don't have time to save or build a new retirement plan. Social security allows ex-spouses to claim their divorced spouse's benefits if the marriage lasted longer than 10 years. Because of this, alimony payments could be affected/reduced by a spouse's eligibility for social security benefits.

Employer provided, and independent, pensions, and retirement plans can be difficult and confusing to divide. Considerations should be made concerning a retirement plan's survivor benefits. If a retirement plan is going to be split in the divorce, it should be explored whether it is more advantageous to collect a lump sum payout that can be reinvested, or risk only receiving benefits for the lifetime of the former spouse.

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