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Considerations for those divorcing in their 50s and 60s

Divorce rates have stabilized and even started to inch downward. But for one segment of the population, the divorce rate has doubled since 1990. More Americans over the age of 50 report being divorced than widowed for the first time as boomers live longer.

Fifty years ago, it was rare that an American over the age of 50 was divorced. In 2000, the number had increased from 2.8 percent to 11.8 percent. According to the 2011 Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 15.4 percent of those over 50 were divorced. This surpassed the 13.5 percent widowed.

The same survey found that more than a quarter of the people who had divorced in the last 12 months were over the age of 50. The worries for older divorcing couples often revolve around marital property division and health care coverage.

Asset accumulation over many years of marriage

Retirement accounts and equity in a home often build over time. For couples in their fifties and sixties figuring out exactly what they own as well as the correct valuation of the assets is important.

Marital property is divided equitably in Illinois. Several categories of "non-marital property" are exempt from this requirement, such as:

  • Property acquired before the marriage or after judgment of legal separation.
  • A gift, legacy or descent made to one spouse.
  • Any property excluded by agreement of the parties, for example through a valid prenuptial.
  • Passive appreciation of property during the marriage.

Sometimes an asset, such as a retirement account may include contributions from before the marriage. A statement may show the "non-marital property" portion. With a closely held business, it may not be as clear. An expert can often assist with valuation issues.

Maintaining health coverage until 65

Health coverage has made headlines lately with discussions related to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, also referred to as ObamaCare. For many the new law may smooth the process to stay insured.

Generally, options have been limited when one spouse does not have access to employer-provided health insurance. COBRA allows a divorced spouse to stay on a group health plan for up to 36 months. This may be enough to bridge the gap to Medicare eligibility at 65; however, the full premium costs are often quite expensive.

The Affordable Care Act may lower health-insurance costs. Projections are that policies will be competitive with COBRA coverage at a better price. It may also become easier to calculate insurance costs due to streamlined pricing based on metal-tiered policy levels.

Deciding to divorce after many years of marriage is a painstaking decision. There may be worries about how the decision will affect retirement finances and health insurance. A family law attorney in Illinois can provide answers to specific questions and assist you through the divorce process.

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