Jack Carney-DeBord | Profile for Jack's Law Office Blog

Informative posts about Divorce, Dissolution, Child Custody and Family Law.

Why More Couples are Getting a Gray Divorce

Gray Divorce

“Gray divorce” is divorce among people aged 50 and over. 

Gray divorce has doubled since 1990, and remains on the rise. The divorce rate among people over 65 has nearly tripled during the same period. Deciding to divorce in the twilight years presents its own unique set of challenges.

A New Stage of Life

Early phases of marriage often begin with launching careers, buying a home, starting a family, and building financial assets. These activities expand into buying a larger home, raising a family, and saving for college. These activities dominate a couple's 20s, 30s and 40s.

Life becomes busy as married couples juggle their various responsibilities. When this phase of life is complete, the couple is now faced with an empty nest and retirement looming on the horizon. These changes may prompt a reimagining of how life might take shape in the next phase. 

Spouses often re-evaluate situations they viewed as tolerable when their highest priority was keeping the family intact for the sake of the children. They may have spent decades so immersed in the day-to-day that they rarely stopped to ask themselves whether or not they still felt connected to their spouse, or found their marriage fulfilling. Issues they were once willing to overlook or tolerate may begin to cause friction. 

At this stage, a couple may find their marriage is no longer strong enough to endure their changing life circumstances. 

SeniorDivorceCoupleTornHeart

As life together changes, the challenges faced in marriage and divorce also change. Divorce in earlier stages of life may involve matters such as support and custody of minor children, whereas in gray divorce, the children are often adults who are likely to be living outside the family home. Spousal support (alimony) in an earlier stage divorce is often a temporary jumpstart, while spousal support awarded in gray divorce is more likely to be permanent.

Gray divorce means negotiating a settlement at a late stage of life, where disentanglement may trickey and the stakes are relatively high.

Why is gray divorce on the rise?

Society is changing rapidly. Marriage has become less a function of economic need as people become more affluent and women gain more financial independence. Divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did, and prior notions of self sacrifice are increasingly weighed against the need for self fulfillment.

People are living longer, healthier lives. Men and women in the US can expect to live on average to nearly 80, and the number of people who reach at least 90 has tripled over the last three decades. Age 50 is the start of a new chapter in life that is likely to span decades.

Parting ways may be a better option than spending decades, or perhaps even another half century, in an unfulfilling marriage.

Spouses may find as retirement approaches, their respective visions of what comes next are vastly different and irreconcilable. She wants to travel and see the world. He dreams of backyard barbeques and weekends on the local golf course. Her desire for sex has faded, and he’s bitter because she rejects his romantic overtures. If no reasonable compromise is possible, frustration can lead to a desire to end the marriage and pursue happiness along separate paths. 

SeniorDivorceCoupleWalkAway

Special Considerations

The longer a marriage lasts, the more intertwined a couple’s lives become. Over half of gray divorces involve couples married 20 or more years. By the time a couple reaches their golden years, they may have a high net worth and assets that are tricky to divide fairly. The following highlights are just a few of the special considerations common in gray divorces.

Retirement Income
By this stage of life, one or both parties will likely have accumulated substantial retirement benefits. How will retirement plans and assets be divided, and what are the tax implications? Who will receive spousal support (alimony) and for how long? Expert legal advice from an experienced attorney is vital when dividing retirement assets and negotiating complex financial settlements. Every detail must be carefully weighed and negotiated, because the final settlement regarding how future income will be divided will have a profound and lasting impact on both parties.

Property Division
Who gets to keep the family home? Or should the home be sold, and the proceeds split? If one party keeps the home, how will the other party be compensated? The party who retains the house must consider how mortgage payments, maintenance, and property taxes square with retirement income. Other properties and assets, such as vacation homes, boats, cabins, RVs and other shared assets can further complicate negotiations. 

Insurance Policies
Life insurance can be more complex than simply changing the name of policy beneficiaries. Some policies accrue asset values that must be considered in a final settlement. Health insurance benefits may also be an important consideration, since benefits may terminate upon divorce. Fully understanding what policies will be impacted, what arrangements and alternatives are available, and how coverage will change is a vital part of the legal consultation. 

Clarity of Mind
For a legal contract to be valid, both parties must be of sound mind when they enter into the agreement. Memory loss and mental confusion must be mitigated through special legal counsel to ensure both parties understand and agree to the terms of divorce. These special measures are important to ensure smooth proceedings and prevent future legal challenges on the basis of competency. 

SeniorDivorceCoupleCouch

 Future Marriage

Later in life most people have more to lose and a shorter horizon for recouping any losses they incur. Given that the divorce rate for remarriage is double the rate for first marriage, sound planning is as important as ever when marrying later in life. A well-constructed prenuptial agreement can give both parties peace of mind, and hammer out any sticking points during the calm before the couple before begins a new life together.

Conclusion

Divorce is never easy, and gray divorce offers its own unique set of challenges.

Highlighted above are just a few of the issues common in gray divorce, but each case is unique. It’s important to negotiate a comprehensive agreement to settle all outstanding matters pertaining to the division of assets and distribution of income. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer can make the process as equitable, quick, and painless as possible. Divorce at 50 is not a tragic ending, but rather the beginning of the next chapter of life.

Are you over 50 and facing the possibility of a gray divorce? Jack can help you make a plan for your new life chapter. Contact him at his Columbus, Ohio office at (614) 751-5058.

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