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5 things to know about late-life divorce

You dedicated your life to raising your children and taking care of your home. While he was in college, you worked two jobs to pay the bills. After he graduated, you took on the role of homemaker and mother.

You sole job was managing the home. Now, here you are, in your mid-sixties facing divorce. How will you be able to live? You haven't had a resume for more than 30 years, so getting a job will be difficult.

Will you be able to get alimony? Will you get a fair share of your joint assets? What if you get the main residence in San Antonio or you end up with the weekend house on Lake Travis? Will you be able to afford the property taxes on either of those properties?

Getting a divorce after the age of 50 can be a scary notion, especially if you feel like you are being kicked to the curb and left with nothing. Fortunately, Texas is a community property state, which means you are entitled to an equal share of your marital assets.

Even if you are anticipating a healthy divorce settlement, there are things you should know when facing a late-life divorce.

Late-life divorce vs. early divorce

One of the main reasons that late-life, or gray, divorce is such a frightening notion is the timing. Starting over when you are eligible for retirement and claiming social security is an unsettling prospect.

Your income has just disappeared and you now face the daunting task of figuring out how your bills will be paid.

Financial mistakes

When divorcing later in life, you may be tempted to put an increased value on certain property that carries an emotional connection.

Don't insist on keeping the home you have shared with your husband for the last 20 years, especially if maintenance expenses and property taxes are going to be out of range of your new budget.

Focus on the true monetary value of your assets and divide them accordingly. Leave the emotion out of the decision-making process and instead focus on obtaining a divorce settlement that will provide for your future.

Social security benefits

After divorce, you are still entitled to your share of social security benefits based on your ex-husband's earnings. In order to be eligible to receive benefits, you must be 62 years or older, have earnings less than the amount of benefits you are claiming, and you cannot remarry.

Dividing retirement assets

The method of division of retirement assets depends on the type of retirement plan.

Pension plans pay monthly, like an annuity. The benefits can be divided between you and your and your ex, with the plan making direct payments to each of you. A court order will be required in order for the plan to distribute the payments.

Also, be sure to have an actuary value the plan so that you know how this asset should be treated in the divorce settlement.

401(k)s and IRAs are much easier to value and divide. The account is usually valued at the current market value of the assets and can either be divided between the two of you, or the account can be signed over to you in total.

Debt

Debt is a more complicated matter since creditors are not subject to a divorce decree. For example, if your husband chooses to take over debt that you signed for jointly, such as a car loan, and defaults on payments, the lender has every right to then turn to you for payment.

When it comes to joint credit cards, it can be difficult to take precautions in case your ex defaults on payments. However, for secured debt, such as a car loan, you can release to him the asset that corresponds to the debt. If he is getting the Lexus, then he can make the remaining payments on it.

While divorcing later in life can be a difficult process, take steps to approach the division of assets with a clear mind. Stay focused on your future needs by ensuring that your financial interests are protected.

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