Are you ready for an empty nest divorce?
Written by Craig Cherney

Are you ready for an empty nest divorce?

Joni and Brad were married in 1997, and they fell out of love a long time ago. It hardly mattered. Between swim practices, basketball games, church, and other activities involving kids and community, they only saw each other in passing. They even joked to their friends about “waving to each other” as they rushed to and from work. Joni and Brad were busy with life: chauffeuring kids and working. They knew they were headed for an empty nest divorce, but neither of them made time to start the discussion.

The ‘Empty Nest Divorce’

Couples who know they’ve been staying married “for the kids” often get a wakeup call when the kids leave for college. When children leave home for college, military service, or jobs, life slows dramatically. Couples may consider a divorce later in life; it’s called a “grey divorce” or an “empty nest divorce.”

Never think your kids – at any age – won’t be affected by your divorce. You will still need to stress to them that your family will not change. The difference will be where your family lives. Like them, you’ve made a choice to change your life.

Unique Considerations for Later-in-Life Divorces

You’ve been married a long time. An empty nest divorce can be much more complicated than, say, a divorce after 9 years of marriage. Empty nest divorce partners are usually 50+ years old. Their identity as a couple may be about their professional and co-parenting roles. As they re-evaluate their lives together, they sometimes come to the conclusion that they barely know each other anymore.

It’s time to talk. The divorce process doesn’t have to be an emotional mess, but it always has challenges. You’ll most likely need legal, financial, or communications professionals to help you structure your divorce. Some of the unique challenges faced in an empty nest divorce can include:

Dividing Assets

Remember how you felt driven to do more, achieve more, acquire more in your 30s and 40s? When you examine your debt load and accumulated assets for your empty nest divorce, it may be more complicated than you thought. Unfortunately, emotions can play a part in the expectations you have. Tears may come to your eyes when you remember happy times at the lake cottage.  Common empty nest divorce assets include:

  • Annuities
  • Art, antiques
  • Bank/brokerage accounts
  • Closely-held businesses or private equity investments with limited liquidity
  • Collectibles
  • Life insurance
  • Properties, residence (including timeshares)
  • Recreational vehicles (boat, camper)
  • Retirement plans (401k, IRA, pension plan)
  • Vehicles

Financial Options

Older married couples not only live in the financial present, they are considering their children’s and grandchildren’s futures. Financial mistakes during your empty nest divorce can be prevented using a neutral financial professional. She or he will guide both of you through the financial side process and help you focus on long-term goals for you and your family. This guidance can minimize errors and offer state-of-Arizona-specific options for the future.

What’s New?

First of all, don’t forget to list new expenses once the two separate households are formed post-divorce. You’ll each want to create a budget that incorporates new expenses, which may include:

  • Cable, cellular, other entertainment/communications packages
  • Housecleaning
  • Insurance
  • Tax changes
  • Two residences

Retirement Accounts

Dividing your checking and savings accounts can be relatively easy if both parties have access to the information. Retirement accounts in a grey divorce are an entirely different story. It’s important to understand that dividing retirement accounts isn’t something you should do on your own. A neutral financial professional can help you find the best solutions and Arizona law has specific requirements which must be met.

Spousal Support

There are many reasons one person may have difficulty supporting himself or herself after a divorce. In a collaborative divorce, you’ll strive to bridge the gap between one partner’s financial stability and another’s path to independence. Factors can include:

  • Age and health of both spouses
  • Assets
  • College, educational costs for children
  • Incomes and earning histories
  • Length of the marriage
  • Liabilities, debts
  • Lifestyle during the marriage
  • Reasonable future expenses

Best Legal Choices

If you are considering an empty nest divorce, it is always better to contact a legal specialist for help. The collaborative divorce professionals at Best Legal Choices can walk you through this process. Call us to request a no-obligation consultation.