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Issues that arise in divorce for older couples

What is sometimes called "gray divorce" is on the rise, and it means that more older couples in Maryland may be divorcing than in previous generations. For those who have not been active participants in managing the household finances, this could mean having to deal with such matters for the first time in their lives.

According to a survey by UBS Global Wealth Management, these spouses tend to disproportionately be women. The organization surveyed 1,500 couples and more than 600 divorced or widowed women who had at least $250,000 for investments. It found that 56 percent of married women allowed their spouses to make the major investment decisions. The women whose marriages had ended cautioned against this, with 94 percent saying that in retrospect they should have insisted on financial transparency. More than half also said that the end of their marriages produced some surprises about the marital finances including debt and overspending.

All the same, the trend does not seem likely to end soon. More millennial women than baby boomers said they left investment and financial decision-making up to their husbands, at 61 to 54 percent. A majority of both mothers and fathers with children younger than 21 said they had no objection to a hypothetical future husband of their daughter managing the marital finances.

People who do not know much about their financial situation might want to take paperwork such as bank statements and tax returns to an attorney to discuss what the next step should be. The person might be able to receive alimony if the other spouse has been the main breadwinner. There may be a retirement account that will be divided between the two, but couples may still have to contend with the fact that they have planned for a retirement together and must now budget for it separately.

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