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Property Division Can Be A Complex Issue During Gray Divorces In Texas

A fair division of property is crucial during gray divorce, but the process can be complicated by the presence of high-value and complex marital assets.

Over the last few decades, late-life divorces have become more common across the U.S. According to USA Today, in 2010, one-quarter of recently divorced Americans were over the age of 50. The rate of divorce among the same age group doubled from 1990 to 2010. If these statistics are any indicator, a growing number of Round Rock couples may be facing the challenges of “gray divorce.”

Divorce is an undeniably complicated process at any age. However, untying the knot later in life can introduce particular difficulties. Couples going through gray divorces may not have to worry about issues such as child custody and support. However, these couples often face significant challenges in reaching a division of property that is fair and financially sustainable.

Common Complicating Factors

There are several factors that can make property division difficult for couples divorcing later in life. These include:

  • Accumulation of assets — Older couples have usually accrued more assets than younger couples. Correctly categorizing, valuing and dividing all of these assets can be difficult.
  • Presence of complex property — Assets such as retirement accounts may represent a large proportion of an older couple’s community property. The division of investment and retirement accounts is technically complex, according to The New York Times. The process requires a qualified domestic relations order, which is a specialized legal order.
  • Likelihood of commingling — Commingling occurs when separate and community assets mix. For instance, a retirement account containing premarital and marital contributions is a commingled asset. Identifying commingled assets and determining how to divide them may be more challenging when couples have been married longer.

Under Texas law, divorcing couples have the option of dividing property by reaching an independent agreement. If couples cannot come to terms, a family law judge may order an equitable division of all community property. This division may be based on factors such as each spouse’s age, health, earning power and fault in the divorce.

Regardless of how property is ultimately divided, it is crucial for spouses to protect their rights to community property. Spouses who fail to fight for a fair settlement may face significant losses, given the serious financial consequences of gray divorce.

High Financial Stakes

USA Today explains that gray divorce can be financially devastating because spouses have little time to rebuild retirement savings afterward. Exacerbating the issue, two separate retirements can cost 50 percent more than a joint retirement. Earning enough money to cover these expenses may be especially difficult for older spouses with reduced earning power. For instance, spouses who previously left the workforce or turned down job opportunities may have fewer options available.

Recent statistics from the Chicago Tribune illustrate the significant toll that gray divorce can take. Just 4 percent of couples over age 62 live at or below the poverty line. However, 14 percent of men who divorce after age 62 do. A significant 30 percent of women who divorce after the same age live at or below poverty level. These figures underscore the importance of a fair settlement for spouses divorcing later in life.

Navigating The Separation

Given the complications and potential financial consequences of gray divorce, spouses preparing for one should consider seeking legal guidance. A family law attorney may be able to help a spouse understand his or her rights during the divorce settlement. An attorney may also be able to assist a spouse in working toward a fairer and more financially reasonable settlement.

Keywords: divorce, property, division, assets