Do Differences in Ages Matter in Divorce? How a Greater Marital Age Gap Can Impact Your Divorce

It is not uncommon to see large age differences in spouses seeking a divorce. In fact, the risk of divorce can increase significantly for partners with a large age gap. 

New research on divorce has found that when people are married to a much older or younger partner, the chances of getting a divorce increase dramatically over time. This is especially true for younger men married to women three or more years older, their risk of initiating a divorce can go up by 87%, whereas the chance of their partner initiating divorce can go down by 23 percent. The same is true for women married to men three or more years older, which increases the risk of divorce by 38 percent.

There are many reasons why a large age gap could lead to divorce, and many complications that could ensue for couples with a larger age gap who are getting a divorce. The following are a few reasons why people getting a divorce from an older or younger partner should carefully consult with their attorney about the issues they are facing in their divorce.

Financial Issues, Power Imbalance. Relationships with greater age gaps can have a potential for a power imbalance, especially related to financial issues. One spouse may handle all the finances and might even exert coercive financial control over the other. This can be a well-intentioned effort to care for the spouse or it can be something more damaging. A much older spouse is likely to have retirement savings, investments and greater earning potential and be more financially savvy. They might even have urged the younger spouse to sign a prenup without the younger spouse fully understanding how this will impact their future. On the other hand, older spouses need to look out for their future and ensure that they have sufficient funds to retire comfortably.

An acrimonious divorce can impact the older spouse’s savings and retirement plans. It’s important to consult carefully with your divorce attorney on the best strategy to protect your future.

Children and Fertility. One of the issues that affects marriages with large age gaps is the issue of children and fertility. One particularly contentious issue in modern divorces is fertility treatment and what happens to frozen embryos when a marriage breaks up. Older spouses may feel cheated out of the ability to have children, and this can cause conflict. The issue of genetic material, fertility treatment and surrogacy in divorce is complex and if this is an issue in your divorce, you need to consult your divorce attorney as soon as possible. 

Retirement and Health Risks Even if both spouses are in good health when they get a divorce, health issues present a significant risk. People with older spouses may in some cases even find themselves as caregivers for their spouses. Getting a divorce when one spouse is disabled or ill can be a particularly heartbreaking and difficult decision. When you are divorcing with a large age-gap, it’s likely that your divorce will need to accommodate retirement, retirement planning, health expenses, caregiving and estate planning. People divorcing with a large age gap need to ensure that their needs are adequately coverer and retirement accounts are split carefully. Splitting retirement accounts is not a DIY venture. Dividing 401Ks and retirement accounts incorrectly, can result in financial penalties that can hurt both spouses. Your Massachusetts divorce attorney will advise you on the right way to divide your retirement accounts during your divorce.

Debt and Earning Potential When there is a large age gap in a marriage, spouses can be at different stages in their careers and may have differing earning potential. This can impact the decisions the court makes about spousal support and division of assets. For example a younger spouse may have significant student loan debt and lowering income, whereas an older spouse may have higher earnings but is closer to retirement or have health issues that could limit their future earning potential. 

Former Relationships and Kids from a Previous Marriage Greater age gaps are often a factor in second marriages where one spouse has already had a family. There are many emotional and financial considerations when you are getting a divorce from someone who was previously married, or if you are the one who was married and has children from the previous marriage. More than one family means bigger expenses, divided loyalties and a divorce in which the resources are stretched for everyone involved.

Getting a divorce when there is a large age gap between you and your spouse can make divorce less than straightforward. It’s important not to take your future stability for granted and to approach your divorce strategically. The Massachusetts divorce attorneys at Mansur Law Group can advise you on some of the complex issues you may be facing when you are getting divorced with a greater age gap between you and your spouse.