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Oneida County Law Blog

Divorce after 50 presents unique financial challenges

For some couples, retirement is when they feel they finally get a chance to spend time together after decades of working hard to build their lives. For others, it leads to a realization that they're living with someone they don't love anymore.

Starting over after a long marriage is scary, but it's becoming more and more common. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, the divorce rate for people age 50 or older has doubled since the 1990s. This trend, known as "gray divorce," presents new challenges and opportunities for couples deciding to call it quits - often after many years together.

How will student loan debt be divided during a divorce?

Student loan debt is a significant financial burden for many Americans. After graduation, the average U.S. student owes $37,172 in student loans, and roughly one in four adult have student loans.

One of the most stressful things about a divorce can be managing finances. Perhaps you have a large student debt or your soon-to-be ex does. Either way, you may wonder how student loan debt is divided during a divorce.

Courts may award different forms of alimony

Many alimony awards take on the common form of one person paying to their former spouse monthly payments of money. These payments can go on indefinitely or they may end after a certain amount of time or the achievement of self-sufficiency for the recipient party. However, in some cases, New York couples may resolve their spousal support matters with a different form of alimony payment. Rather than paying support over time, they may agree to a lump sum award.

A lump sum alimony award is effectively what it sounds like: a single payment that encompasses the entirety of the support relationship between two divorcing parties. When a lump sum payment is made, the alimony relationship is over and the spouse who pays is not required to provide their ex with more financial help.

Does child support have to cover a child's college expenses?

The laws of New York require that parents subject to child support agreements and orders financially provide for their kids until they reach the age of 21. While marriage, enlistment in the military and other actions may emancipate children from the financial support of their parents, in many cases, children reach the age of 21 with the help of child support payments from their divorced parents. As most kids are out of high school when they reach this age, some may wonder if and how their parents will provide for them as they enter into college.

It is important that individuals understand that they can agree with their former partner to support their kids through their higher education pursuits. Two individuals who were once married with children but who choose to divorce can decide that they will work together to pay for the expenses their kids take on as they enter college. Terms regarding college costs can be worked into child support agreements with the help of family law attorneys.

The role a prenuptial agreement may play in a New York divorce

Not every couple that chooses to get married will elect to draft and execute a prenuptial agreement before formalizing the relationship between the partners in marriage. Those that do, though, create contracts that can dictate how certain financial and property-based decisions will be handled in the event that the marriages end in divorce. Because of this, individuals who entered into prenuptial agreements with their spouses may not be able to change the decisions that they made in the past regarding certain divorce-related topics.

Prenuptial agreements cannot provide couples with complete agreements on how all marital matters will be settled if divorce happens. For example, prenuptial agreements cannot establish how the custody of children will be managed as all such matters must take into account the needs and best interests of the children. Prenuptial agreements are made before marriages happen and therefore a child may not even be born when decisions about their hypothetical custody are considered in the creation of a prenuptial agreement.

What is non-marital property?

The courts of New York follow equitable distribution laws when it comes to dividing up marital property. Past posts on this blog have discussed how these laws seek to preserve fairness in the division and assignment of marital assets. However, marital property is only one kind of property that must be addressed when a marriage ends. Non-marital property must also be identified and, in some cases, may be disputed when couples elect to pursue a divorce.

Non-marital property is property that is owned by only one of the partners to a marriage. There are different ways that a person may retain non-marital property despite their formalized legal union to their spouse. For example, if a person owned an item of property before they were married and never converted it to marital property, then that item may retain its non-marital status.

How to schedule a 50-50 parenting plan

Many parents who get a divorce discover that they can benefit from a 50-50 parenting plan in which each parent shares the joy of caring for their children 50 percent of the time. Children will have two homes and live with both parents an equal amount of time with this plan.

While the central premise of equal parenting time is a constant with the 50-50 split, parents may have varying ways of divvying up time depending on the schedules and needs of everyone involved. Here are several ways parents might divide their time in this way:

Seeking modification to an alimony award

New York courts have the power to grant individuals alimony pursuant to their divorces. If, for example, one party would be unable to support themselves due to a lack of income following the finalization of their divorce, then the court may require their ex to provide them with financial support. Generally, individuals should not suffer significant financial hardships just because they want to end their marriages.

However, over time, the financial circumstances of a person may change. A once unemployed individual may work to obtain a degree or may find a good opportunity to re-enter the workforce and make their own wages. A person who receives alimony may discover that they are employable and they have the capacity to support their own needs without the help of their former spouse.

What is the income shares model of child support?

New York courts apply the income shares model in child support cases. This model generally requires both parents to contribute to the financial support of their child and a percentage of the sum of their collective incomes should be set as support for their child.

Under the New York child support guidelines, parents are expected to contribute 17 percent of their collective income to the support of one child. In this type of child support case, if the mother earned $200,000 per year and the father earned $70,000, the court would start by calculating the sum of their combined income to $270,000. The court would then calculate 17 percent of $270,000 as $45,900, and that would be the amount of money the parents would need to contribute for the child for a year of support.

The end of an alimony award

Not all alimony awards are intended to last forever. Although some individuals may be legally entitled to lifelong alimony due to illness or the inability to work, others may only be awarded alimony long enough to get them back on their feet following their divorces. This is particularly true when the ex-spouse is able to work for their own income. To this end, some New Yorkers may see their alimony awards stop because that is how the awards were established in their agreements or orders.

However, even when a person is to receive alimony indefinitely, there are still some events that may bring that obligation to its end. For example, according to the New York City Bar, the death of either the alimony payer or the alimony recipient may terminate the obligation.

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