gray divorce

Don’t Let the Gray Put You in the Red

According to Constance Gustke of “Business Day” (NY Times, 28 June, 2014), “Gray” divorce is growing faster than any other demographic, some 800,000 by 2030.

“Gray” divorce is defined as a dissolution of marriage when the parties are over 50 years of age. These divorces often come when a couple is at their prime, with a combination of better health and peak earning power. Assets are often at their high value then, and debt often paid down or off. Kids are through college, and retirement shows a sunny face in the not-so- distant future.

The strongest assets in most “gray” divorce actions (including those litigants approaching 50 years of age) are pensions and retirement plans: ESOPs, 401Ks, IRAs, the whole alphabet soup. A divorce, especially one of many years, will often cut these and other marital assets in half, in both community property states, like California, and equity states, like Utah.

As a divorce attorney with over 36 years experience, I am amazed at how often otherwise smart people blow their futures by leaving hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table in a divorce action. Sometimes one side or the other, or both, just wants to “get it over with”, speedy and cheap trumping quality and fair. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client say “just let him keep his pension, I don’t want to make him mad,” or “give her anything she wants, I just want to move on”, I could spring for a vacation to Hawaii, first class.

But too many litigants would rather leave dollars on the table than assert their pension rights. Often these rights are guaranteed by Federal law. True, divorce is a creature of state law, but retirement plans are usually subject to pre-emptive law found in the United States Code, Ann. Military retirement is just one of many examples. Retirement plans for many private businesses are regulated by Federal law.

Experienced and competent divorce lawyers understand pension law, and are successful in drafting QDROs which actually work. A “QDRO” is a “Qualified Domestic Relations Order”, and it is necessary for lawful division of most pensions. If a QDRO is omitted or bungled, there will be a mess later when the plan vests, is distributed, taxed, or otherwise hits the retirement timer. And a spouse may show up years later and demand her share, regardless of what a state court has ordered in the Decree of Divorce.

So take care, do it right, and get the help you need, if not from THE HUNTSMAN FIRM, then from another professional who will be worth your hard-earned dollars. Messing this one up can be uncorrectable, too. Get full disclosure, and protect your assets.

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