Texas couples over age 40 who are considering divorce may face challenges that their younger counterparts do not. Finances and other assets accumulated over a long-term marriage can significantly complicate what is sometimes referred to as a “gray divorce.”
Divorce is a complex legal process that statistically will affect around half of all couples married for the first time. While many people imagine that lengthy marriages are the most stable, the reality is that a Houston couple may choose to end their marriage even after spending several decades together with their spouse, raising a family and owning property.
Older couples who tied the knot 30, 40 or even 50 years ago may have never considered what divorce might be like and never anticipated it happening to them. Unfortunately, there is rarely an uncontested divorce after being married for this long. As an increasing number of older adults separate and divorce, an entirely new population of divorced people is struggling to come to terms with the reality of the divorce process and how it affects them.
Addressing a variety of complex financial matters
Joint financial concerns are among the most complex family law matters addressed by divorce proceedings, especially in a high-asset divorce. The longer spouses are married, the more intertwined their finances are going to be. While a gray divorce doesn’t usually involve child support or child custody issues, older couples will likely have to consider complex property division matters such as:
- Home ownership and mortgages
- Spousal maintenance (spousal support)
- Shared checking and savings accounts
- Pension payments
- Social Security benefits
- 401(k)s, IRAs and other retirement assets
- Stocks, bonds and other investments
- Dividing other marital property with your spouse
Valuable property, such as artwork or antiques, can complicate the financial picture even further. Other marital assets such as vehicles, jointly owned business ventures and rental properties will also have to be handled. Finally, hidden assets have to be located and addressed.
FAQs about the divorce process for long-term marriages
My spouse was the breadwinner for the majority of our marriage. How will I survive in my retirement years?
You have an option to seek spousal maintenance. According to the Texas Family Code, if you were married for more than 10 years and meet the factors, including lack the means to cover your reasonable needs after your divorce, you may be eligible. The Texas Family Code mentions other eligibility criteria that must be discussed with an experienced attorney to determine if you qualify for spousal maintenance under the Texas Family Code.
Depending on your current circumstances, you may negotiate your spousal maintenance with your ex-spouse through an alternative dispute resolution method, like mediation or collaborative law divorce. As your lawyers, we are committed to your welfare. We will advise you as to your options and help craft legal solutions to help you obtain the resources you need to move forward.
After being married for such a long time, will I have to provide/be eligible for spousal maintenance?
You might be required to provide (or be eligible to receive) spousal maintenance. For example, one spouse might have been the primary financial provider while the other spouse was a homemaker and the children’s primary caregiver. In this situation, the primary financial provider may be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to the other. However, the circumstances of every divorce are unique. Therefore, we suggest discussing your case with a knowledgeable divorce attorney with local experience.
My spouse and I have operated a family business for many years. What will happen to that business?
Texas is a community property state. In divorce, this means that the spouses’ property will be subject to a just and right division under the Texas Family Code unless the property is proven to be one spouse’s separate property. If your family business is community property, it will need to be valued (most likely), and then a just and right division will be be made of all property, including the family business. However, we are adept at negotiating creative property settlement agreements that achieve our clients’ unique goals. It may be possible to keep the business running even after divorce, if that is desirable. Our lawyers will guide you through the asset division process and protect your interests at all times.
Divorce can take longer than you expect
The Texas Attorney General has outlined the fundamentals of the divorce process in this state, which includes a mandatory wait of 60 days between filing the papers and the day a family court grants the request. However, any divorce has the potential to take longer than this. If, for instance, the divorce is contested, other steps will need to be taken. Resolving financial matters, spousal maintenance and property ownership can also take weeks, if not months, to complete. Family law mediation may simplify the process, but not every couple chooses to seek pre-court settlements. Simply preparing the suit for filing can take more time than many couples anticipate.
Fewer couples stay together for the long run
No one likes to think about their marriage ending, but the figures are not necessarily on the side of spouses staying together for several decades. The San Antonio Express-News shared data concerning marriage success rates. After considering the fact that some partners die early, it is estimated that 50th wedding anniversaries are achieved by only 6.2 percent of couples. Additionally, 25th wedding anniversaries are achieved by only 35.3 percent.
Given the complexities associated with getting divorced later in life, many people in the Houston area choose to speak with a family law attorney to learn more about this process and how it will affect them. When it comes to long-term marriages, divorce lawyers with experience can be valuable assets.