Gray divorce may involve complex financial issues and assets, and it often leaves spouses struggling financially, which makes legal assistance advisable.
Divorce later in life used to be rare, but today, it’s a process that thousands of Americans go through each year. According to The New York Times, research shows that over one-quarter of recently divorced adults are over the age of 50. Like many people divorcing at younger ages, Texans who are completing these “gray divorces” may be tempted to forgo legal assistance. However, the following factors make professional representation imperative for people pursuing gray divorces in Houston.
Challenges of inventorying assets
During gray divorce, assets must be divided fairly to ensure that both spouses can maintain financial stability afterward. In Texas, property acquired during marriage is usually considered community property. This property is divided equally upon divorce, unless circumstances justify an unequal division. However, an equal or equitable division of community property can only be made if all property is reported and properly valuated. The following factors may make this a challenging task:
- In gray divorce, the overall value of marital assets is often greater, since older spouses have had more time to accumulate assets. Consequently, inventorying and valuating assets may be a more involved task.
- Older spouses may honestly overlook or forget about property that was obtained years or decades earlier. It may also be easier for older adults to hide assets that their spouses are not aware of.
- Older spouses often have complex assets or property that represents a mix of separate and community property; retirement assets are a common example. Determining the value of this property and each spouse’s entitlement can be challenging.
A qualified legal representative can assist a spouse in understanding his or her rights and ensuring that all assets are appropriately accounted for.
Common property division pitfalls
Even when separate and marital property is accurately inventoried, it can be difficult for spouses completing gray divorces to reach reasonable settlements. One common mistake that spouses make is failing to pursue a fair division of assets. U.S. News relates the story of one woman who agreed to take just 40 percent of the marital retirement assets because her husband was older and in poor health. The woman later regretted giving up her right to her hard-earned assets.
According to the same source, other spouses make the error of pursuing assets that have hidden costs. For instance, keeping the family home can be a financial burden for many spouses once property taxes and maintenance expenses are factored in. An attorney can help a spouse realistically evaluate what kind of asset division would be reasonable and financially advantageous.
Potential for financial fallout
Financially surviving divorce later in life can be difficult even when property division and alimony awards are fair. The New York Times notes that, after gray divorce, many spouses are left unable to fund individual retirements. Additionally, these spouses may have limited time left to work and recoup their losses. This makes it important for spouses to avoid any unnecessary financial losses when getting divorced. Working with a legal professional is one of the surest ways to do this.
Many spouses may worry about the cost of seeking legal representation. However, according to The New York Times, overlooking assets or agreeing to an uneven settlement can ultimately cost spouses tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is highly advisable for spouses to protect their long-term interests and financial standing by seeking the advice and general assistance of a divorce attorney.