No matter when it happens, a divorce is a complex and emotional process. This is especially true if it occurs later in life. Known as a “gray divorce”, the actual legal process is the same when seniors in Florida decide to get a divorce. However, there is often more to divide in terms of assets due to the length of time the couple was together.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rate among older Americans has steadily risen since the 1990s, with 43% of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 and 39% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 experiencing a divorce. When you couple these statistics with Florida’s population of elderly residents, it becomes clear that asset division offers unique challenges in these types of divorces.
Experienced Guidance From Serious Florida Divorce Attorneys
If you’re a senior facing a divorce in Florida, it’s crucial to have experienced guidance and support from serious Florida divorce attorneys. At Robert Sparks Attorneys, we have a team of dedicated attorneys who specialize in divorce and family law, and who are committed to providing personalized, compassionate, and effective legal representation to our clients. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help you through this difficult time.
What Should Seniors Know About Florida Divorce Law?
As an older resident, Florida offers many advantages to everyday life. Warm weather and a seemingly endless array of activities make it a destination for many seniors, but that increased population–especially among retired married couples–means more chances of divorce. Unfortunately, a marriage can break down at any point, even many years into the union.
Despite its high concentration of older residents, Florida’s divorce laws apply universally regardless of age. Florida is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that a spouse can file for divorce without proving that the other spouse did something wrong. Instead, the person filing must simply state that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
As it relates to property, it is divided using “equitable distribution”, which means that it is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally. This includes all property and debts acquired during the marriage, regardless of who actually acquired it. With that in mind, it’s important to understand that Florida courts will separate property into two categories when it comes time to divide assets: marital and separate.
- Marital property – Marital property refers to assets and property acquired during a marriage that is considered to be jointly owned by both spouses. This includes assets such as:
- Real estate
- Personal property
- Financial accounts, and other types of investments.
- Business interests or professional practices that were developed or expanded during the marriage.
- Intellectual property, such as patents, copyrights, and trademarks acquired during the marriage.
- Life insurance policies and other financial instruments that were acquired or funded during the marriage.
- Separate property – Because it’s considered to belong solely to one spouse, separate property usually isn’t subject to asset division in a Florida divorce. Most of the time, separate property includes anything that was acquired by one spouse before the marriage, property that was inherited or received as a gift during the marriage, and property that is specifically designated as separate in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
It’s important to note that in order to claim the property as separate in a Florida divorce, the spouse claiming separate ownership must be able to prove that the property is indeed separate. This may require documentation such as prenuptial agreements, inheritance records, or bank statements.
How Is a Florida Senior Divorce Unique?
While there is no legal difference between divorces in Florida among older and younger couples, a senior divorce certainly presents unique challenges. Generally speaking, asset division is unique in these types of divorces because the couple will have amassed significant property and other assets over the course of the marriage that will need to be divided in an equitable manner.
But there are other factors that make a senior divorce unique, usually revolving around the financial aspects of the marriage:
- Retirement accounts – Retirement accounts, such as pensions, 401(k)s, and IRAs, can also be a source of contention in a senior divorce. These accounts can be significant assets for seniors, and dividing them requires careful consideration of tax consequences and the impact on each spouse’s financial future.
- Health care – Health care can be a significant concern for seniors going through a divorce. Seniors may have more health problems and require more expensive medical care than younger people. In Florida, one spouse may be entitled to a portion of the other spouse’s health insurance benefits after a divorce, but this depends on the specific circumstances of the case.
- Social Security benefits – Social Security benefits can also be a factor in a Florida senior divorce. Spouses who have been married for at least ten years are entitled to a portion of their former spouse’s Social Security benefits if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
Ultimately, if you’re going through a divorce in Florida, it’s important to get a proper accounting of any property that is available to be divided. Most of the time, this will be a court-ordered process, but it will include any debt that has accumulated during the course of your marriage.
How Is Debt Divided in a Florida Senior Divorce?
As it relates specifically to a Florida divorce between two seniors, any debt incurred during the marriage–regardless of whose name is on the account or loan–will be subject to the asset division process. Typically, this can include things like:
- Credit card debt
- Car loans
- Business loans
While there are various forms of debt that build up, especially in a Florida marriage between two seniors, courts will still look at the same factors it always does when it comes time to decide how the debt will be divided. These factors usually include:
- Length of the marriage – Generally, the longer the marriage, the more likely it is that assets will be divided equally.
- Financial contributions – The court will consider each spouse’s contribution to the acquisition of marital assets, including income, property, and financial support.
- Non-financial contributions – The court will also consider each spouse’s non-financial contributions to the marriage, such as contributions to the household or caring for children.
- Earning capacity – The court will consider each spouse’s earning capacity, including education, work experience, and ability to earn income in the future.
- Age and health – The court may also consider each spouse’s age and health, particularly if one spouse has health problems or is nearing retirement age.
- Other relevant factors – The court may consider any other factors that it deems relevant, including the standard of living during the marriage, the needs of any children involved, and any prior agreements between the spouses.
Again, it’s important to remember that under equitable distribution, this debt will be divided in a way that the court deems fair. This doesn’t mean that debt–or other assets–will be divided equally. Thus, it’s extremely important that you work with an experienced Florida divorce attorney who can guide you through this process. Our team can ensure that your rights and interests are protected when it comes to the division of marital debt during your divorce.
Contact Robert Sparks Attorneys Today
No matter how long you’ve been married, the prospect of divorce sometimes looms. At Robert Sparks Attorneys, we understand that divorce can be a difficult and emotional process, especially for seniors who may have been married for many years. Our team is dedicated to providing compassionate and personalized legal guidance to help you navigate the complexities of your divorce in Florida.
Whether you’re facing complex property division issues or other challenges related to your senior divorce, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.