Over the course of a marriage, two lives become intertwined. The longer the marriage, the more interwoven they become. When it comes to divorce, shorter marriages are understandably usually much more straightforward.
In the case of ending long-term marriages, however, it’s much more complex as there’s often a great deal to unravel.
People end long-term marriages for a variety of reasons. Gray divorce, divorce over the age of 50, has been on the rise over recent decades as people live longer, healthier, more active lives well into their later years. Though that’s often the case, it’s not only older couples divorcing after lengthy unions.
There’s less of a social stigma attached to divorce, improved education and employment opportunities across the board, and people are less likely to stay in a broken, unhealthy, unsatisfying marriage than in earlier eras.
Some couples stay together for the sake of children, but once the kids grow up and move out, you have fewer reasons to maintain the status quo.
As we said earlier, ending a long-term marriage can be a complicated endeavor. If you plan to divorce after being married for more than ten years, there are a number of issues you need to give special attention.
Division of Property in Long-Term Marriages
In shorter situations, it’s often relatively simple for a couple to split up their property in a divorce. Couples can divide what they have and go on about their business. But for long-term marriages, this is often much more difficult.
Oregon practices equitable distribution. This means that the state views the property as belonging to the spouse that acquired it. In cases of long-term marriages, however, the lines of ownership often tend to blur. The longer the relationship, the more tangled things become.
The goal of the division of property in a divorce is for each party to emerge on a relatively even financial footing. Ideally, both spouses will be able to enjoy a lifestyle similar to that experienced while married. In cases of long-term marriages, this often takes a great deal of work between the spouses, with mediators, or even in court.
Related Reading: How is Debt Divided?
Spousal support isn’t quite as formulaic as child support. Many variables come into play when settling on a number.
The courts consider:
- the health of both spouses,
- the future earning potential of each party,
- the amount of shared debt,
- the length of the marriage,
- and how much one supported the other.
As the division of property, the goal of spousal support is to position the supported spouse as close as possible to the standard of living experienced during the marriage. When it comes to unions of more than ten years, the court may not set a termination date and spousal support payments may continue indefinitely.
As we get older, we tend to give more and more thought to retirement. Many people have an IRA, 401(k), military pension, or other forms of retirement benefits. It’s important to account for all of these because they are all on the block to be divided in a divorce. How much depends on a variety of factors, but in the case of long-term marriages, it can be a hefty chunk.
This may have a substantial impact on any retirement plans you’ve made. In some cases, people wind up having to continue working much longer than they originally intended. Many often wind up staying at jobs or at least having to find other work, after dividing retirement benefits.
Social Security is also something to consider in long-term marriages, and the length has a huge impact here. If your marriage lasted at least ten years, you can receive Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work history.
If you are older than 62 and currently unmarried, you qualify. This is most common in cases where one spouse earned significantly more than the other.
Related Reading: How are Social Security Benefits Divided in a Divorce?
One of the biggest changes many people experience after divorce after long-term marriages is a new living situation. Ideally, this represents a positive shift, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be weird.
After years of cohabitating with another person, living on your own takes some getting used to. And there are other potential adjustments beyond that.
When you and your spouse owned a home together, odds are, one of you will have to move out if you haven’t already.
If you wind up in possession of the house, it may be the first time you have to pay the mortgage entirely on your own. This has a huge impact on your financial situation. In many cases, divorcing couples wind up selling the marital home.
Altered Family Dynamics
Divorce after long-term marriages often alters the entire family landscape. Even if your kids are grown, live their own individual lives, and have families of their own, things change drastically. When adult children are involved, there’s no back and forth about custody, child support, visitation, and family weekend trips to Crater Lake. But holidays, birthdays, and family gatherings likely won’t ever look quite the same.
Though you won’t need an actual parenting plan or visitation schedule, you may well wind up with something rather similar.
You and your ex may split key holiday celebrations with the kids and grandkids, almost like shared custody. In amicable splits, sometimes divorced parents can still be in the room with each other, but that’s not the norm.
Even in low conflict divorces, be aware of a number of unique legal and financial complications. These are just a few. As in most divorces, it’s likely in your best interest to hire an attorney. An experienced divorce lawyer can help guide you through the treacherous waters towards an optimal outcome.