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Does Retirement Affect Alimony Obligations?


Recent studies have indicated a marked uptick in the amount of older couples deciding to divorce after many years of marriage. With people living longer and financial stability for each spouse less of a concern compared with times past, these older couples seem to place a premium on ensuring they are happy in the relationship. Once children leave the home to start their own lives, issues of growing apart may be more apparent, and divorce may be best for both spouses. Of course, finances in later years are considerably different than the economic situation couples face when divorcing in their 30s or 40s. This difference is most apparent around the issue of alimony, both in terms of whether and how it should be awarded, and if it is modifiable in the future. Retirement significantly alters the economic capacity of an individual, and is an event that requires advanced planning to ensure the reduction in income does not destabilize finances. Thus, whether retirement is looming while the divorce case is pending, or whether this transition occurs once an alimony order is in place, must be a factor in how this support is evaluated by the courts. A discussion of the impact of retirement on alimony awards will follow below.

Retirement When Divorce Is Pending

Given the more complicated financial situation of older couples facing divorce, it is best if they can negotiate their own alimony settlement in order to take into account the types of assets available, potential health issues, and anticipated retirement dates. In many situations, agreeing on a lump-sum alimony settlement is preferable to monthly payments, since regular income will not be available in the near future. In addition, if sufficient assets exist, finding a division that provides sufficient support for both spouses may negate the need for alimony entirely.

If alimony becomes a contested issue, in long-term marriages that lasted several decades, courts are most likely to consider an award for durational (set period of time) or permanent alimony. Job training or revamping a career to make up for the lost income is not viable later in life, and some amount of reliable support may be necessary. Both sides will need to present evidence of why support is necessary or not, and whether the spouse has the ability to pay.

Modification Once an Award Is in Place

If a standing alimony order is already in place, it is not uncommon for the payor to request modification or termination upon retirement due to changed circumstances. Courts will look at whether the individual can access retirement funds without penalty, and whether ownership of additional assets is substantial enough to allow for continued support. In other words, the fact the payor retired is not enough on its own to automatically convince a court to modify or terminate alimony. Evidence of an inability to pay the current amount or to pay any amount at all will need to be provided to the judge, and weighed against the need of the other spouse for support. The facts of each case will dictate which outcome is appropriate, and an experienced family law attorney should be consulted to ensure the proper claims and evidence are submitted to court, so the correct outcome is secured.

Get Legal Advice

Alimony is a significant issue for both spouses, and if you have questions about the obligation to pay or the right to receive this support, talk to the experienced attorneys at the office of Joyce A. Julian, P.A. to discuss your options. This issue is directly linked to financial security, and needs the attention and knowledge of a family law attorney to ensure it is fully and correctly addressed. Contact the Fort Lauderdale law firm for a free consultation.



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