Ending a marriage is a life-altering decision, whether it’s after 2 years or 20. While some divorces can be amicable, some aren’t and while some can lead to happier times, some don’t. Either way, there’s a lot to consider like the impact of the divorce on your family, your finances, coping with the massive change and of course the first step – finding a specialized attorney for divorce.
Understanding the reasons behind the decision
It’s important to examine why you want to file for a divorce. Once you have carefully assessed the reasons, it is essential to recognize the underlying issues to make an informed decision.
You and your partner have grown apart
As you grow older, you may feel you no longer have as much in common with your partner as you once did. You may experience growing emotional distance as your interests, values, and priorities shift.
You and your partner are experiencing empty nesters’ syndrome
When your children move out for college or work, you and your partner may find that you no longer have the same focus on family and parenting. Without the shared responsibility of raising children, you are perhaps forced to confront other issues in the relationship that have been dormant until now.
You are experiencing a midlife crisis
In some cases, as people approach their senior years they may experience a sense of restlessness or dissatisfaction with their lives. This could be something that you may also be experiencing right now. This could be one of the reasons you are contemplating starting your life afresh without your partner.
You or your partner is going through financial difficulties
Financial pressures such as debt, retirement, or medical expenses are some of the reasons why relationships feel strained and couples divorce after 25 or more years of marriage. These issues may put pressure on a marriage leading to separation.
Factors to consider when filing for a divorce
Assets and finances
If the decision to get a divorce comes after about 20 or more years of marriage, the complications are many beginning with the money aspect. Taking stock of all you and your partner may have accumulated by way of the family home, investments, retirement accounts, and pensions and the division of all these assets can be overwhelming. To make this process easier, it is advisable to hire an attorney for divorce. They will help you identify your assets and debts, help you calculate your share and understand how the divorce may affect your retirement plans.
Your health and age
Getting a divorce in your senior years can be physically and emotionally challenging and may have a long-term impact on your health. It is crucial that you take into consideration your health and age before you decide to file for a divorce and get into a long drawn legal battle. If you have pre-existing health issues, ensure the divorce doesn’t affect your health insurance.
Explore alternative living arrangements
A divorce settlement after 25 or more years of marriage could very well mean you may have to amicably decide or litigate who gets to keep the family home. You may want to hold on to the house since it has been your refuge for many years. Also, changing houses at this point may seem like another significant change in your life that you are not ready for.
Before you decide to keep the house, make a note of your finances. Check whether you have enough money to pay for the mortgage if any, maintenance, emergency repairs, and property taxes. Also, if you decide to keep the house, you may have to buy out your partner’s share of the house. In case you don’t have sufficient finances for this, you may want to explore alternative housing options, such as a retirement community or a smaller apartment.
Think about your support network
The divorce process can be a highly emotional experience, especially when you have been married for a very long time. Most support tends to come from within the marriage and not having that can be very isolating. Before you decide to file for divorce, you should look to build a strong support system (if you don’t already have one) to help you cope emotionally as you go through the rigors of the proceedings. If you don’t have a close knit group of people to fall back on, start reaching out to relatives and rekindling dormant friendships to find a reliable and trustworthy network of people. It could also help to consider joining support groups where members going through a similar situation as you could help with experiential information.
Consider the impact on your family
When you and your partner decide to get a divorce, you will have to be prepared for the significant impact it may have on your immediate and extended family. This is because the divorce may completely change the family dynamics. If you have children, you will need to understand that they will find it difficult to accept that their parents are getting divorced after so many years of marriage. The impact on grandchildren who are of an understanding age should also be considered. To make things easier on everyone, you need to be prepared to have honest and reassuring conversations with your family about your decision.
Be prepared for the legal process
Divorce can turn out to be a complex legal process. So it is important that you are financially and emotionally prepared in case it becomes a long-drawn procedure. It is also important to consider that you may need professional assistance to take care of all aspects of the divorce process. So if you’re wondering, “Do I need a divorce lawyer?” Here are a few reasons why you may need a lawyer to get a divorce.
- To help you understand the meaning of statutes and court orders and how they apply to your situation
- To ensure that the dealings between you and your partner remain fair
- To make sure that all your paperwork is submitted on time
- To help you keep track of court dates
- To act as a reliable third party to mediate for you and communicate with your partner
- To provide information that you may not know that will help you to consider the most effective litigation or settlement options
- To streamline the divorce process to avoid it from becoming long and complex whenever possible
Having a divorce lawyer by your side also means that you are assured of your rights being protected. So, you need to find the right attorney for divorce who will provide you with the best legal advice and solutions for your situation. So before you start looking for an attorney for divorce, here are a few things you need to know.
How to find the right divorce attorney
Check the domain of expertise of the divorce advocate
You will need a divorce lawyer who has specialization in the issues that are most relevant to your case. So, before you hire an attorney for divorce, ensure they have experience in handling senior divorce cases. In addition, they should also be experienced in handling the division of combined assets, which may be complex due to your long marriage. It would also help if they have been part of the bar association family-law committees or have addressed bar associations on family law. This is a significant indicator of their knowledge and expertise in laws and issues related to divorce and family law.
Understand the approach of the divorce attorney
Generally, divorce cases are resolved through any of these approaches: litigation, mediation, and collaborative divorce.
This is an adversarial process of divorce in which a court will resolve the issues between the divorcing couple. This process is adopted when the couple has major issues that require resolution, such as the division of assets.
In this process, a neutral third person who is the mediator will help the divorcing couple resolve the issues related to their divorce. This is followed by a mutual agreement on the divorce settlement.
This process involves cooperative techniques that the divorcing couple and their respective divorce attorneys agree on. The marriage is dissolved, and conflicts are resolved without the case going to court.
Depending on your situation, you must decide which approach works for you. So when you are looking for an attorney for divorce, clarify whether the attorney has expertise in that type of divorce process. Their expertise must align with your approach to divorce. For instance, you and your partner have mutually decided to opt for collaborative divorce proceedings. In such a case, you will need to look for divorce advocates who have experience and training in negotiation and management of conflict.
Fix a budget
You need to be aware that your divorce attorney’s fees or a part of it may have to be paid in advance. This is a retainer fee that you pay upfront to secure the services of the lawyer. Also, the longer the divorce process is, the higher the fees will be. On top of the attorney fees, you may have to pay additional charges such as administrative costs, court fees, mediation costs, and so on. So draw a budget based on how much money you can shell out to make the various payments. Fixing a budget is easier when you do extensive research and request quotes from law firms as well as individual divorce attorneys.
Assess if you need a big team of attorneys
Legal services are offered by large law firms as well as by individual attorneys. The type of legal service you pick depends on your situation. If you own a lot of assets or have your own company or multiple businesses, you may want to go to a big law firm. These firms have large teams with the necessary skills and training to handle cases with high stakes. Consequently, you will need to pay quite high fees to hire such a large team.
Ensure you interview multiple lawyers
The best way to find the right attorney for divorce is by interviewing multiple lawyers. Most lawyers offer a free consultation where you can get to know their specialization, experience, fees, and approach to your particular situation. You will understand whether they are adept at understanding your situation given your long marriage and age. So before you make a choice, ensure that you have consulted at least two to three different advocates for divorce or law firms. By exploring your options, you will ensure that you are choosing an attorney whose approach you identify with and who suits your budget.
Know what to do when you can’t afford a divorce lawyer
If you can’t afford a divorce lawyer, there are several ways you can seek legal aid for a low or even no cost at all. However, there are several terms and conditions that you will have to meet to get access to resources that provide you with free legal aid. One option is to reach out to your local bar association. They will direct you to lawyers or associations that offer pro bono legal services.
Another option is that you can only apply for a court-appointed divorce attorney if your case involves orders of protection, custody, and visitation, which is rare in senior divorce cases. To seek such services, you may have to submit documentation that proves your lack of financial resources.
Getting a divorce in your senior years can be a complicated process that requires careful consideration. So it’s essential to examine the reasons behind your decision and be prepared for the emotional and financial costs considering your health and age. This is why you need to seek out the support of a qualified attorney for divorce to help you navigate this major life event. With careful consideration and the right kind of support, you will enable yourself to go through the divorce process and move forward with your life.