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Key family law considerations for older couples in dispute

Family legal issues are not limited to younger people. In Missouri and across the country, a greater number of older couples are choosing to part ways even if they have been married for an extended period. Spouses in longtime marriages will often have issues in dispute that are not as prominent with younger couples. It is more likely that there will be significant assets if it is a couple that was together for a long time and was able to accrue a vast portfolio. Property division and retirement accounts will come into focus.

While there are many reasons for this such as unhappiness, empty nest syndrome and the desire to do something else, there are certain basic steps to take. If the couple does not want to formally divorce and chooses to live separately, they might not believe that a legal separation is necessary. Often, they are wrong. The legal separation - known in Missouri as separate maintenance - is important because if the other spouse begins to accrue debts, both might be responsible for them. In addition, the other spouse might be able to make medical decisions on a person's behalf if there is no legal document preventing that. If there is no divorce agreement, retirement assets cannot be separated.

When considering property division, older people could be willing to shun a dispute over a family home. They could be ready to move to a smaller residence as they age. Often, however, a person might want to retain the property. A way to deal with this is to have the spouse who wants to retain the home purchase it from the other spouse. Using a share of a retirement account is a tactic to achieve that. Factors such as taxes will be important as there is a difference between the taxes paid for a property's equity and those paid for pensions or retirement accounts.

Divorce issues run the gamut for people of any age and along with that comes inevitable emotional stress. Those who have had a long-term marriage, are older and are considering moving on or both must make certain that they protect themselves for the present and future. Speaking to an attorney who is experienced in all levels of divorce is highly recommended.

Source: Reuters, "Your Money: Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce," Beth Pinsker, April 26, 2017

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Alan E. DeWoskin, P.C.
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