You still have to look at the same basic components of asset identification and allocation, what do you own and what do you owe, and we definitely need to consider alimony. There are other aspects that aren’t necessarily legal. First off, if you’ve been married 30 or 40 years, you don’t have as much time to recover financially if you’re now dividing the assets.
The standard of living can often go down dramatically after anyone’s divorce, but the time in which to recover is much shorter. People panic over the money aspect. Panic is not necessary, but it does need to be looked at very carefully.
The second component is, if you’ve been a couple for 30 or 40 years, how you get through your daily life is going to be radically different. Clients sometimes call their attorney two or three months into the divorce after one of them has moved out of the home and tell me things like, “I need someone to cut my lawn”, “I don’t know how to change the oil in my car”, “He always takes out the garbage and now I have to figure it out”, or the husband is suddenly eating out all the time because he hasn’t been preparing meals. The emotional and logistical components of getting through your daily life are quite different when you have a divorce in the golden years.
The third aspect is, sometimes the adult children get involved in the case because they see their inheritance dissipating. Now two households have to be maintained, and obviously that’s more money being spent. Sometimes the adult children stick their noses in and try to get involved in the settlement negotiations. Whereas if the children are eight years old or 10 years old, they don’t even think about the financial aspects of their future inheritance. It’s not so much the legal aspects as the family dynamics are different, and the day-to-day lives of the couple are radically different. They don’t always foresee that when they think about coming to me for a divorce.
Mary Ann Burmester is a family lawyer practicing in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has more than 25 years of experience in family law. To learn more about Mary and her firm, NM Divorce & Custody Law LLC, visit www.nmdivorcecustody.com.