Gray Divorce

Social Security
If you’re going through a divorce later in life, social security benefits should absolutely be a topic of conversation.

A few years back I wrote a post about things to consider when divorcing later in life. One of these considerations was Social Security. Social Security continues to be an important topic of discussion for any couple divorcing later in life, because it can have a significant impact on income and sometimes retirement benefits.

Of course, just when we get comfortable with the rules and how they’re applied, Congress goes and shakes things up. As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, just signed by President Obama on November 2, 2015, the federal government is eliminating two key pieces of Social Security that are important for retirement planning for married and divorce spouses alike.… Keep reading

Valuation and Division of (Unusual) Property in Divorce

Hi there,

That handsome fellow on the right is a jackalope. He was given to one of my paralegals by a client in gratitude for her work dividing an extensive collection of very unusual stuff, which did indeed include another jackalope.

Many of you, if you divorce, will have extensive property to value and then divide, including stock options, retirement accounts, real estate, deferred compensation, and business interests. All of these will require some form of valuation. They also will require consideration as to whether they will be divided immediately, usual for retirement accounts, or one party will keep the asset and then pay the other, which is usual for real estate and business interests.

Sometimes divorce can be used to prevent divestment of an asset, as in the case of the unlovely Sterlings.

Then there are collections; I find these fascinating. I’ve had to find experts to value everything from fine art (easy) to circus memorabilia (not so easy), to jewelry, and once, designer handbags. The evolution of internet sales has made valuation of individual items a bit easier (Hermes handbags, for example, are now fairly easy to value). Also, the sheer size … Keep reading

Hi there,

I’ve been playing hooky, and my colleague Andrea Dunbar has stepped up to complete her series on points to consider in gray divorces.





Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson AttorneyThere are important differences associated with dividing retirement plans that are already in pay status and those that are not.  Some people divorcing later in life are already retired, and thus are most likely already collecting from a retirement plan.  This limits the options available for dividing some plans in divorce.  Different plans have different options, so it is imperative to know the rules of the plan you are dealing with. 

Pension plans, as opposed to 401(k) plans or 403(b) plans, once in pay status, pay a fixed sum of money each month for the rest of a participant’s life.  The amount of the payment is typically based on the income the person earned over a period of time.  The payment amount will also depend on whether there was a survivor beneficiary named at the time of retirement and the extent of the continued benefit.… Keep reading

Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson Attorney

Hi there,

Gray divorce is on the increase.  As Boomers age they are deciding to divorce.  There are a number of issues that are of particular importance.  My very talented colleague Andrea Dunbar has written today about Social Security and Medicare benefits.




Andrea Dunbar Burns & Levinson AttorneyWhile each divorce case presents its own set of complex facts and circumstances, divorces involving older clients (also known as “gray divorce”) can be especially complex.  Issues such as Social Security, Medicare, retirement benefits and estate planning are, more often than not, fringe issues when dealing with couples divorcing at other points in life.  These issues come to the forefront, and sometimes become of critical importance when a divorce occurs later in life.    

Social Security

It is important to know the ins and outs of Social Security when going through a divorce during advanced age.  The rules of Social Security, like most other federal benefits programs, are counter-intuitive and often lead to surprising results. 

A widow or widower at full retirement age or older receives 100% of a deceased spouse’s basic Social Security benefit amount.  The same is true even if the spouses are divorced, as long as they were married for at least … Keep reading

Hi there,

If this is you, you have my total sympathy.  Divorce itself is hard, but to be looking at both the end of a marriage and potential retirement must be harder still.  These are circumstances where you should see a therapist, as you are no doubt looking at a total remake of your world.

Decisions about social security are looming too.  If you are in your early 60’s, you should be aware of your rights here.  If you are over 62 and have been married for 10 years or more, you are entitled to collect benefits on your spouse’s earnings without any deduction in the benefits going to your spouse.   You will not receive his/her full benefit, however, so you should always check what your individual benefit would be before choosing his or hers.

I have a number of clients in this age range and the choices can be very hard, particularly as some of them married later in life and have unemancipated children as well.  Most financial experts I have read or talked to are urging individuals to fund retirement before college accounts if it looks like they may be hitting both, at or near … Keep reading

Hi there,

This week my husband and I celebrate our 45th wedding anniversary; despite that (or perhaps because of it),  I wasn’t surprised to hear of the Gore’s separation after 40 years.  Their separation resounded across the blogosphere last week.  For all the speculation, it will be impossible to know what went wrong, unless a third party materializes.  The reality is that anyone in a marriage that is under press scrutiny will present a carefully crafted public picture, which may not reflect reality at all. Remember the Edwards debacle?

There was a very interesting statistical analysis of this by Betsey Stevenson, on the NY Times’ Freakonomics blog.  Essentially, the most divorce-prone generation are those who married in the 1970’s (whew, I missed it by 4 years).  I wonder if this is the result of the Woodstock years or yet another byproduct of feminism?

More intriguing perhaps, is the timing of the Gore’s daughter’s separation.  This ties into the concept that divorce is catching.  If you hang out with folks whose marriage is unhappy I think that translates into being more focused on what is wrong with your marriage; if you hang out with folks who are … Keep reading