Significantly, an increasing number of the 80,000,000 baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are eager to have another shot at life. The younger boomers are now past 50 and “divorce prone.” One in four divorce after age 50—that’s triple the divorce rate of their parents’ generation.
In many respects our unique social history makes us more divorce prone. Coming out of the post-war economic boom, nothing seemed beyond reach. The richest, best-educated and yes, “spoiled brats” challenged the sexual, social, and music revolutions and the traditional mores and institutions. The result was an upturn in multiple marriages, couples having children later in life and wearing out body parts faster because of ever-demanding exercise regimens (with replacement parts just a surgery away). These multiple socio-economic factors have often resulted in a complete denial of the aging process. The safety net of Social Security caused many of us to ignore important later-life considerations such as retirement, health care considerations, and disability—all were designed for an era where lower life expectancy protected these benefits. The advent of Viagra, cosmetic surgery, and an improved health care delivery system now project life well into the 90s. Full retirement social security benefits with ability to earn benefits without penalty mean there is life after retirement with the potential for a new beginning with a new partner!
The family lawyer’s knowledge of current legal trends is critical to serving the needs and expectations of the divorcing baby boomer. The resurgence in prenuptial agreements, addressing the needs of children born to the mature adult couple, addressing estate consequences including the fallout on adult children from prior relationships, alimony considerations in light of retirement, and the right to retire—these are among the issues receiving intense scrutiny in the family law arena. These issues command global experience.
In 2014, New Jersey made major revisions to our alimony statute: N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 (b). The statute now contemplates a rebuttable presumption of the right to retire! Therefore, extremely important to the “graying” divorce is a thoroughgoing inventory of the nature of employment; involuntary termination of employment with the resulting consequences; the status of termination packages; the timing of payouts, investments, and cash flow; onsets of dementia and other significant health considerations. Among other critical issues: inheritances, selling homes, QDROs, credit worthiness, long-term care insurance, changing beneficiary designations after divorce, as well as responsibilities for elderly parents; ensuring that inheritances and assets acquired prior to marriage are not commingled; providing for disabled children and remaining educational considerations; and the role of social security, must be addressed.
As counsel for this expanding area of practice, a disservice is done to the client if there is a failure to approach this process with a commitment to a conclusion that is fair to all parties. The interdisciplinary team approach is optimal to attain the best available outcome.
Candace R. Scott, LLC
Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney
Member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Collaborative Law, Mediation, and Arbitration Services