As recently as the 1990s, divorce over 55 was almost unheard of, even though the overall divorce rate was much higher than it is today. Instead, if older couples drifted apart, they usually obtained “Irish divorces.” The spouses remained legally married, but they led separate lives.
Things are different now. Divorce’s moral acceptability rating recently hit an all-time high. Couples who never would have considered divorce in prior years now see marriage dissolution as a legitimate way to end an unsatisfying marriage. And, in 1995, Irish voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing divorce.
Overall, grey divorces involve the same financial and emotional issues as marriage dissolutions in other age groups. But grey divorce issues have a slightly different twist. So, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer needs a special skill set in order to successfully resolve these matters.
Child Custody Matters
Most couples over 55 no longer have minor children at home. However, grey divorces still often involve child custody matters, usually regarding grandchildren.
Frequently, adult children have a much harder time accepting their parents’ divorce than younger children. Adults are often less emotionally resilient than children. Furthermore, adult children have a lifetime of happy family memories to deal with. Young children might only remember one or two good family Christmases.
So, adult children often blame one of their parents for the divorce. Children often punish the targeted parent by severing emotional contact.
Assume Bill and Joan have a son, Bill Jr., and a grandson, Bill III. Ever since Bill III was born, he usually spent at least one weekend a month and two or three weeks a summer with his grandparents. Bill and Joan divorce after forty years of marriage. Bill Jr. believes that his father’s infidelity caused the breakup. So, he forbids Bill III to see his grandfather.
In many states, Bill Jr. can almost unilaterally sever the bond between Bill III and his grandfather. But Minnesota is different. The Gopher State has a very broad grandparents’ rights law. According to Section 257C, “the court may, upon the request of the parent or grandparent of a party, grant reasonable visitation rights to the unmarried minor child, after dissolution of marriage.” The court will grant reasonable visitation if:
- Such contact is in the best interests of the child, and
- The contact does not interfere with the parent-child relationship.
What does this law mean for Bill? Based on his prior relationship with Bill III, continued contact is probably in Bill III’s best interests. One weekend a month and two weeks in the summer would obviously decrease Bill Jr.’s parenting time. But it may or may not “interfere with the parent-child relationship.” That’s a different question.
Buffalo, MN Divorce Lawyers and Retirement Account Division
Emotional and financial issues are both involved in retirement account divisions. Emotionally, 401(k)s and other nest eggs represent long-term security. Financially, these accounts are typically one of a family’s largest marital assets.
Minnesota is an equitable division state. All marital property must be divided equitably. Even if only one spouse made financial contributions, retirement accounts are marital property, at least as to the amount of growth during the marriage. There is a presumption that 50-50 is equitable, but a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer can change that proportion based on several factors.
As for the division itself, each plan has its own rules, because each plan has a separate Plan Administrator. But generally, the nonowner spouse may choose one of the following options:
- Do nothing and receive a proportionate share of future disbursements,
- Pay a financial penalty and cash out, or
- Roll the portion into a new tax-deferred account (most nonowner spouses choose this option).
Military retirement accounts are different. Usually, the government only divides these accounts if the servicemember spouse has at least ten years of service and the marriage lasted at least ten years. Even then, only a 50-50 division may be available. In other situations, a Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer has other options.
Home Equity Division in a Grey Divorce
Younger people often have little home equity. During the first half of a mortgage loan, most installment payment money goes to prepaid interest. But older couples often have substantial equity. Frequently, it’s best to sell the house and divide the proceeds, both from a financial and emotional standpoint.
Alternatively, one spouse could keep the house and the other spouse could receive an owelty partition lien. That lien is for a proportionate share of the equity. Later, when the remaining owner sells the house, that lien must be paid. A setoff might be appropriate as well. For example, Bill could let Joan keep the house if Joan gives up her half of Bill’s retirement account.
Connect with a Compassionate Attorney
Grey divorces involve special financial and emotional issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Buffalo, MN divorce lawyer, contact Carlson & Jones, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Wright County and nearby jurisdictions.