Divorce for People Who Are 50 and Older

Gray Divorce in New Jersey

Between 1980 and 2010, the divorce rate for Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 quadrupled. Financial matters are the primary challenge confronting separating spouses in a so-called “gray divorce.” If you’re a Garden State resident 50 years of age or older who’s thinking of ending your marriage, consulting with an experienced Bergen County divorce attorney may be able to help you navigate the many complex issues confronting you.

Gray Divorce and Private Retirement Plans

In New Jersey, marital assets are distributed equitably, which means they are apportioned fairly rather than equally. The Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court at the county level is the agent that will be making that determination. Under the guidelines of equitable distribution, it’s not uncommon for one spouse to walk away from a marriage with a significantly higher share of the marital assets. This can have a profound affect on retirement savings.

Any money saved in 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs) will be subject to equitable division. The specific judicial order that recognizes a soon-to-be-former spouse’s interest in a participant’s employee pension plan is called a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO.) QDROs apply to all pension plans that qualify under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Every division of assets stipulated in a QDRO must be reviewed by the 401(k) or IRA plan administrator for compliance after it is issued by the Family Division Court.

Gray Divorce and Social Security

Gray Divorce in New Jersey

The Social Security Administration has a strict set of guidelines that pertain to the distribution of Social Security benefits, and New Jersey courts have no jurisdiction over this. Generally speaking, if the marriage lasted more than 10 years and the petitioning ex-spouse meets the other eligibility criteria established by the Social Security Administration, he or she may be able to claim a portion of their former spouse’s benefits.

Gray Divorce and Spousal Support

When couples who are older than 50 divorce, if one of the spouses is not working, he or she may be awarded spousal maintenance unless income provided from divvying up the marital assets is substantial. While New Jersey does not have a set formula that determines what this spousal maintenance will be, in 2014, the Garden State replaced the permanent lifetime alimony model with the open durational alimony model.

Open durational alimony generally applies to marriages that have lasted longer than 20 years and continues until the court terminates it. This may be prompted by the recipient ex-spouse’s remarriage or death. If the marriage was of relatively short duration, though, spousal support may only be given for a brief period of time.

Paying spouses also have the right to question spousal support payments once a paying spouse reaches 67, which is retirement age, thanks to the ruling in New Jersey’s Mueller v. Mueller case. This rebuttable presumption has been part of nearly every Garden State spousal support order since 2014.

In order to continue receiving spousal support, the recipient spouse will have to prove to the court that there is good reason for the payments. The court will weigh factors such as the respective incomes of both parties and the ability of the recipient spouse to have saved for retirement in making its determination.

Gray Divorce and Health Insurance

If one of the parties in a divorce has been receiving health insurance benefits through a soon-to-be-former partner, this can also become a huge issue. Although New Jersey law provides that the spouse who does not have independent benefits can retain coverage while the divorce is pending, that coverage ceases once the divorce is finalized.

Divorce at any age is fraught with complications, but it can become particularly problematic when older partners are involved. Talking with a Bergen County divorce attorney can help you weigh your options and evaluate the impact of the choices you make. Contact the Law Offices of Kelly Berton Rocco in Hackensack, New Jersey, today at (201) 343-0078 and schedule a consultation.

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