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Property division in "grey divorces"

America has seen an increase in the national divorce rate over the last several decades, and it is well reflected in the aging population of Arizona. The divorce rate for people over 50 is twice what it was in 1990, and the percentage of people between ages 65 and 75 who are divorced has more than quintupled since 1960. This trend is referred to by the term "grey divorce."

Grey divorces often involve substantial marital assets as the couple may have been married for a long time. Arizona law presumes that nearly all assets and property accumulated by the couple during their marriage are the community property of both parties, and, at the termination of their relationship, the property should be divided equally between the two. This includes assets such as retirement accounts, 401(k)s, IRAs and Social Security benefits. It does not matter if only one ex-partner's direct earnings went into the account or if the title is held by a single person.

A recent survey of people who had divorced after at least ten years of marriage showed that 31 percent of them had not claimed any of their former partner's retirement benefits and were apparently unaware that they could. Sometimes, the retirement benefits can be included at no cost to their ex-wife or husband. A divorced person may be able claim their share of their ex-spouse's Social Security payment, which may be as much as half, without affecting their spouse's payment or even having to notify them.

A lawyer might be able to help sort through options for grey divorcees, advising them of how to seek their rightful share and manage it wisely. With the help of legal representation, a fair and equitable property division may be able to fulfill the needs of both partners and help ease the transition from married life.

Source: Forbes, "The Big Money Mistake Divorcing Women Make", Kerry Hannon, July 03, 2014

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