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Are there better options than divorce after decades of marriage?

Increasingly, more married couples in their 50s and older are calling it quits. However, when you have decades of intertwined finances, divorce can be complicated and can cost both spouses more than they are willing to give up.

If you aren't going to take the step of filing for divorce, but you want to protect yourself, a legal separation is often a wise choice in order to protect your financial future. Chances are that if you're living apart, you don't want to be responsible for any debts that your estranged spouse incurs.

Further, if you're still legally married, you may be able to stay on your spouse's health insurance plan if you don't have one of your own. However, it's best to check with the insurance provider to make sure that you're still covered even if you're legally separated.

By not divorcing, you may be able to increase your share of each other's retirement plans. However, it's wise to consult with both your lawyer and a financial advisor on that.

When couples opt for a legal separation, it may be wise to get a postnuptial agreement. This can codify which assets and debts belong to whom.

It's also a good idea to revisit your estate plan. Do you still want your spouse making medical and financial decisions for you? If you don't specify otherwise, as your spouse, he or she has that right.

If you and your spouse choose to go your separate ways after years of marriage, but don't plan to remarry in the near future and don't feel the need to completely sever legal ties with one another, you should each speak with a New York family law attorney to determine what the wisest option is for you.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce," Beth Pinsker, Reuters, May 14, 2017

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