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Wisconsin Family Law Articles
Divorce During Middle Age

Divorce During Middle Age

The exact point when someone is considered middle-aged varies according to whom you ask.  Some sources say middle age begins at 45 while others say it's 55. When someone is in this age-range and going through a divorce, they may be ending a long-term marriage, raising kids, putting adult children through college, coping with plans for supporting themselves during retirement, and facing numerous other issues that can arise during this phase of life. Here are some considerations for those going through divorce during middle age:

Gray Divorces and Retirements Planning

In 2017, the PEW Research Center found that since 1990, “gray divorces” or divorce by people over age 50, have nearly doubled. Often, people divorcing at this time in their lives have been married for decades. There are few experiences that are as financially devastating as a divorce, but someone leaving a long-term marriage is likely to be facing more severe consequences. When a couple has been married this long, they usually have combined their resources and income and used them to prepare for retirement.

Dividing assets and retirement has the potential to get complicated for this age group. Wisconsin is a community property state so generally whatever income or retirement contributions were made during the marriage belong to each person equally.  As the couple nears the time in their lives when each is getting ready for their golden years, having to shift to paying for bills, housing, and other expenses with half of what was expected at retirement can be a difficult adjustment.

In the situation where one spouse is still earning considerably more income than the other, Wisconsin courts can look at factors such as the length of the marriage, the less well-off spouse’s contributions to the home and family, and his or her earning potential, in deciding whether to award spousal maintenance. Sometimes a spouse may be ordered to pay support until the other can finish school, get a job, or learn a new skill.  During middle age, going back to work or beginning a new career may not be realistic.  However, the court must also consider the potentially obligated party's ability to pay support. When each person has planned to live on less during retirement, there won't be as much available for assistance. The change in circumstance may lead to one or both people working beyond when they intended to retire. 

Parenting and Plans for College

At 45 some people are still raising minor children and putting them through college. Parents are going to have to contend with the financial hardships of divorce, planning for retirement, and making sure they have financially prepared for the kids.  When children are college-aged, parents may have to adjust their plans to pay for tuition and provide support. This may involve children taking out more student loans, living at home longer, or parents continuing to work into their senior years to make sure their kids have what they need. Additionally, adult children may end up having to help support their elder parents during their retirement years.

Our office has experience helping people going through divorce and understands the unique challenges that can be presented for those during middle age. Call today to set your appointment to take a “first look” at your circumstances and assess your needs.