After a long marriage, two people who are going though a divorce may have complicated assets to untangle. If they are near or past retirement, ensuring their financial security may also be very important.
The first step for people going through what is often called a “gray divorce” should be to make a list of all their assets and debts, both marital and individual. Inheritances and gifts are usually considered individual property. Documents such as tax returns, prenuptial agreements and estate planning documents may also be useful. In some divorces, one spouse may try to hide assets from the other. There may be steps that people who are concerned about this can take to avoid it. Pension plans, IRAs, 401(k)s and annuities all have different rules for division in a divorce. People should understand these.
People also need to know what to expect in their post-divorce life. Some may need to focus on ensuring they have access to a liquid emergency fund of six to 12 months in savings. Others might want to make sure they can continue to help children or grandchildren financially. Some may want to travel or start a foundation. These choices will inform what they need to ask for in the divorce settlement.
People might be able to negotiate the divorce agreement even if there are complex property issues to deal with, such as the need to sell a business. Avoiding litigation is not always possible, but reaching an agreement out of court can be cheaper and less stressful. They may want to talk to an attorney about their aims for the divorce. It is important to approach out-of-court negotiations in a businesslike manner and to avoid making emotional decisions that could be financially damaging.