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Gray Divorce 101

Choosing to divorce later in life can sometimes present different challenges than a typical mid-life divorce. Divorcing after age 50, commonly referred to as a gray divorce, can be beneficial and liberating, but it may also be financially challenging, and will likely prove to be legally complex. To better prepare yourself for gray divorce or to recognize the factors contributing to your current divorce, its best to understand what makes divorce after 50 different.

Gray Divorce on the Rise

In the past decade, the divorce rate for people over 50 years old has doubled. One of the most likely reasons for this rise is simply because people are living longer. With a longer life expectancy, couples in their 50’s no longer want to settle for a so-so marriage when they are looking at another 20, 30 or more years of life ahead of them.

Other couples may have simply grown apart. For many married people with children, their kids’ lives become their central focus, sometimes to a detrimental point. In some instances, when the kids “leave the nest,” the couple no longer knows how to be a couple, they don’t know who their spouse has become and they may feel like strangers. Or, some couples stifle their marital issues, choosing to stay together for the sake of their children, then divorcing once the kids are grown up.

Later in life divorces may also be rising because some people over the age of 50 are on their second or third marriage. Statistically speaking, once a person has been divorced, any future marriages are 2.5 times more likely to fail.

Financial Strain

One of the biggest reasons a gray divorce can be more trying than a typical divorce is the financial cost and recovery. When someone gets a divorce in their 30’s or 40’s, that person has time enough to pay off the divorce fees, and find a way to regain their financial footing. However, a person past the age of 50 is likely looking towards retirement and has already moved on from his or her prime earning years.

Dividing Retirement and Reconfiguring Insurance

Along the same reasoning, configuring retirement, health insurance and life insurance during a divorce can be much more difficult when a couple is older because much of it has already been established. An older couple has likely already paid into and planned on a retirement plan together, and must therefore split it up and negotiate the terms if they divorce.

For many couples, health and life insurance is also an issue in divorce. If one spouse is on the health insurance of the other, he or she must figure out another source of insurance. Also, if a spouse must pay alimony, that spouse is required to have a life insurance policy, if he or she does not already.

Poor Health or Incompetency

Sometimes in a gray divorce one spouse may be facing a severe medical issue that compromises their judgement, which complicates the process. For example, dementia could prevent a person from making fair decisions regarding his or her divorce, especially concerning finances and legal issues. If someone of poor health or unsound mind is going through a divorce, they will likely be appointed a “guardian ad litem” to represent their interests.

While the complications of a gray divorce may hinder some, for many people it is worth it to go through the trouble in order to improve their prospective happiness. If you are considering a gray divorce, consider your options and decide whether or not it is the best move for you.

If you do decide to file for divorce, try to get as much of your legal and financial accounts situated and organized to better prepare yourself for the process. The longer you’ve been married, the more assets you share. Numerous shared assets will only complicate the divorce, it can also make it last longer. Be proactive and hire an experienced and compassionate divorce attorney, Barbara A. Weaver Attorney at Law, to help you through your gray divorce.


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