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Gray divorce raises distinct property division issues

In last week's post, we discussed some U.S. Census data regarding the "gray divorce" trend of recent years. The data confirms that divorce is becoming more common among older couples in the U.S. For Minnesota couples who are divorcing late in life, the end of a marriage raises some special issues.

It is common for older couples to have acquired significant marital property over the years, including a house, investments, artwork and other valuables. Before these assets are divided, they must be valued, and some of these assets will raise complex valuation issues. Understanding these issues can be key to getting a just result in the property settlement.

Another special concern of older spouses is getting a fair division of retirement accounts. These accounts typically have tax advantages under federal law. When a family court judge orders a retirement account to be split, the parties must follow certain procedures to make sure those tax advantages are not lost. These procedures include requesting a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) from the court. After the judge enters a QDRO, it is submitted to the plan administrator for approval. The plan administrator will then open a second account, naming the other spouse as an alternate payee.

Older spouses should also be mindful of the effect of divorce on Social Security Benefits. Beginning at age 62, a divorced ex-spouse may have the right to collect Social Security Benefits calculated on the other ex-spouse's work history. Certain requirements must be met. Chief among these requirements are that the marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.

At our law firm, we understand the unique concerns faced by middle-aged and older Minnesotans facing the end of a long marriage. We are committed to helping our older clients work for a fair division of marital property. Those interested can find more information on our property division web page.

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