Gray Divorce -- when divorcing couples are over age 50 -- is becoming more common in North Carolina and across the United States. According to one study published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B in November 2012, approximately 25 percent of all divorces in the United States occur to people over age 50. These couples face different issues than younger divorcing couples.
North Carolina is an equitable distribution state. This means that the assets a couple accumulated during marriage are subject to an equitable split, which is not necessarily an equal split. In a gray divorce, couples may have accumulated significant assets during the course of their marriage, and splitting these assets can be contentious. The couple may choose to reach an agreement on their own with the assistance of their divorce attorneys in an uncontested divorce, rather than allow the court to split their assets. This allows you to determine which assets are most valuable to you, and your attorney can fight for these assets.
A contested divorce may mean significant lifestyle changes for both spouses after their assets are equitably divided by the court. They may not be able to pay for college or weddings for their adult children. Travel may be reduced or eliminated. A spouse who has not worked during the marriage may have to find employment. The large family home may have to be sold as both spouses downsize to smaller residences.
Older divorcing couples are more likely to have significant retirement savings to divide during a divorce than younger couples. How the court divides these accounts depends on when they were started.
If the working spouse started a 401(k) plan after the marriage, then the account is subject to an equitable division. If the working spouse started a 401(k) before the marriage, the amount in the account is the spouse's separate property, but determining the "separate" amount of the account can be difficult. If the spouse's leave it up to the court to divide, North Carolina courts will divide this how they see equitable, which can be unpredictable.
When one spouse has a defined benefit pension plan and is not yet retired, North Carolina courts use coverture fraction to determine the value, taking into account life expectancy and the earliest possible retirement date.
Losing a portion of your retirement savings in your divorce means that you may have to work longer than previously estimated or make significant changes to your planned retirement lifestyle.
Hire a Dedicated North Carolina Divorce Attorney
The experienced attorneys at Jerkins Family Law understand that a so-called gray divorce is very different than when a younger couple ends their marriage. You need an attorney who realizes that you may have accumulated significant assets during your marriage and face financial devastation without quality representation. You worked hard all your life and you deserve a comfortable retirement, even in the midst of a divorce. If you are over age 50 and ending your marriage, visit our dedicated Divorce page and contact our office today.