For years now, analysts have noted that more Americans getting divorced after age 50. Some call this phenomenon “gray divorce.”
For the most part, Florida law applies to a gray divorce the same way it does to a divorce between two 30-year-olds, but some of the issues can work out differently when the spouses are older. For example, alimony can take on a very different role in cases involving two spouses who are later in life.
Spousal support and retirement
Alimony, known as “spousal support” under Florida law, consists of payments from one ex-spouse to the other during and/or after a divorce. These payments are in addition to what the receiving spouse got as part of the division of the couple’s marital property. It is meant to help bring about a more equitable outcome in cases in which one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage.
Spousal support is typically temporary. It is meant to help the dependent spouse just until they can become financially independent. For instance, a spousal support order may give the financially dependent spouse two years to finish their education so that they can secure a job that lets them enjoy something close to the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage.
However, spousal support is only possible if the paying spouse can afford to pay it. With that in mind, a support order typically expires when the paying spouse retires.
When a couple divorces in their thirties, the dependent spouse may have time to get started on a new career, and the paying spouse has years ahead of them to continue earning a wage. Theoretically at least, they both have time to build up assets that will see them through their retirement.
The picture is very different for a couple that divorces in their fifties or sixties. The receiving spouse in this type of case has a much harder time starting a new career and doesn’t have as many years left to save up for retirement. Likewise, the paying spouse doesn’t have as many years to make up for what they lost in the division of property. Depending on their age, they may not even be able to keep paying alimony for as long as their ex may need it.
While the broad outlines of a gray divorce are the same as any other divorce, the financial details and concerns involved can be quite different. People going through a divorce later in life should be sure to discuss these matters with experienced legal professionals.