You look across the table at your spouse of over 40 years. You’ve raised children together, traveled together, been through hard times together. For a while, though, something hasn’t felt right. You’re not the person you once were, and the comfort you used to feel just isn’t there anymore. Could it be, you wonder? Could your marriage have really run its course?

This is an increasingly common story for Nebraskans and others across the country. While national divorce rates have largely stabilized, one group is experiencing a surge: people over the age of 50. In fact, so-called “gray divorce” rates have doubled since 1990, bringing with it several complex issues.

Asset Accumulation

While older couples may avoid difficult child custody disputes, asset division can be much costlier. After decades of marriage, you’ve likely accumulated quite a few things of significant emotional value. Deciding on the true financial worth of a lifetime’s worth of belongings and categorizing them can be a huge challenge.

Investment And Retirement Accounts

Retirement funds are typically designed to remain intact, so dividing them can be a technical feat. Tax law often comes into play when these divisions occur, which an experienced divorce lawyer will need to handle.

Commingled Assets

The longer a marriage has lasted, the greater the likelihood of “commingling,” which means that property or assets once separately owned by one spouse have now made the transition to joint ownership. This can happen because you used jointly-owned funds for upkeep or renovation, or because both parties worked to maintain the asset.

Whatever the case may be, understand that the emotional status of an asset may not conform to its actual legal status. Just because you think of something as “yours” doesn’t mean a court will view it the same way.

Division Of Debt

Older couples often have debts to divide as well, sometimes from multiple properties, or debt used to bolster other investments. Because Nebraska is a so-called “equitable distribution” state, a judge will have significant leeway to determine what settlement is most fair to both parties, which may not be a simple 50-50 split. If you’re not careful, you could end up burdened with an undue share of debt, which can be difficult to pay off later in life.

For these and other reasons, it’s essential that you consult an experienced attorney if you’re considering divorce after decades of marriage. Not only will you avoid some common pitfalls, you’ll also minimize the emotional toll as much as you possibly can, which is often the greatest cost of all.