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  4.  | Navigating the Rise of Gray Divorce: Challenges for Divorce Over 50

Navigating the Rise of Gray Divorce: Challenges for Divorce Over 50

In general, statistics show that divorces are dropping in numbers across the board, with one exception – the population over fifty years old, typically known as the gray divorce. This can now include everyone from GenX to Baby Boomers and it is a trend that is likely to grow as our population ages.

The “Gray Divorce” is typically a longer-term marriage with no children or adult children. While there may not be custody issues, parties have built up assets and spousal support, especially if one spouse has been out of the workforce for a while can be an issue. A Gray Divorce may also mean a later in life marriage or second or even third marriage where the parties have accumulated assets from prior marriages or separate assets that cannot be included in a “marital” division of property. Separate property is an entirely separate (but very important) discussion. Separate property stays with the spouse who brought it into the marriage rather than being divided with other assets.

With longer term marriages, one side may not be as aware of the finances of the marriage so involving a financial planner early on will help to show all the assets and debts the parties have. This includes accounts in both parties’ names which, in long-term marriages, are generally all marital, regardless of the name on the account.

Just because there are no custody issues does not mean that gray divorces are free from emotion – far from it. The longer the marriage, the more emotions are bound to be involved in any divorce. The average marriage (that ends in divorce) lasts around eight years so for people that make it passed that mark, they think they are in it for the long haul only to discover that the marriage ends for one reason or another. There is blame and resentment and plenty of emotion to go around. From empty nesters or financial issues to infidelity, there is no one reason Gray Divorces are rising in number but they are.

Even if kids are emancipated, adult children can take sides in a divorce and parents can try to manipulate their adult children just as parents of children do in custody cases. If ever attorneys are needed, it is in what parties may think are simple “balance sheet” cases where you just need to figure out how to sort out the assets and debts. Even the assets and debts may have emotions involved. Who keeps the family home where the kids were raised or how much support is paid to a spouse that has not worked in 30 years may not be a simple calculation.

Even if you are able to logically work through the asset and debt division, coming up with long term spousal support for your golden years when you were just starting to think of how to survive on a fixed income can be a real curve ball. Simple math will tell you that it takes more money to support two households than one.

Gray divorces are the end of some thing but also the fresh start to something new. Divorces, at any age, are all about perspective. As with any divorce, in addition to an attorney who can give you advice and guidance on the legal aspects of a divorce, seek advice from a counselor and financial planner and do not jump into anything without having a plan.