Gray Divorce

It used to be unthinkable for couples to divorce after 50. Things have changed dramatically. These days more people over 50 are divorced than widowed. This age group now accounts for one-quarter of all divorces. This is a post about divorcing after age 50, otherwise known as the gray divorce.

Growing Apart: The New Trend

According to some reports, these so-called “gray divorces” have doubled since 1990 and, with half our married population being 50 or older, the rate is expected to grow, especially as more and more baby boomers become empty nesters.

Divorce is hard and complicated no matter what your age is. But divorce might be something to approach carefully if you’re over the age of 50. Here’s why.

Florida Gray Divorce

When couples choose to divorce in their 30s or 40s, they still have time to recover financially, because adults at that age have several years, if not decades, left in their careers.

But when divorce occurs when a couple is in their 50s or later, careers may either be coming to a close or are completed, and spouses are often living on fixed incomes provided through Social Security or retirement benefits.

I’ve written about this subject before. Here are some things to consider:

  • Valuing the Marital Estate – By the time a couple enters the golden years, they may have gold to divide, including businesses, retirement funds, and vacation homes. Valuing these assets can be difficult. The value of a business may not be apparent from balance sheets, and the sale or transfer of assets may have tax consequences. As a result, a financial advisor may be an important component in the divorce.
  • Medical Care – Health insurance is often tied to the employment of one spouse. With aging comes diminishing health, and declining cognitive ability. Courts may need to intervene if one party has dwindling capacity to handle their own affairs.
  • Long-Term Arrangements – Legal arrangements, such as wills and trusts, need to be reviewed to make sure they reflect post-divorce wishes. The same is true for long-term care, such as medical directives, living wills and trusts.
  • Retirement Plans – After 20 years of marriage, retirement plans can be substantial . . . and complex. Retirement plans vary in kind, and they all have different restrictions, tax consequences, distribution and vesting rules.
  • Lifestyle adjustment – Younger couples have time to re-accumulate wealth after divorce, but in Gray Divorces, the spouses have less time to re-establish themselves financially. One or both may be close to or in retirement, and face living on half of what they earmarked for retirement.

Why is it happening?

There are many explanations for the gray divorce phenomenon. Often, couples aren’t on the same timeline emotionally when it comes to divorcing, and that can make a gray divorce particularly painful.

People are surprised to be dealing with a spouse who wants out after many years of marriage. The “leavee” can’t imagine growing old alone. The “leaver”, may feel guilty for ending the marriage.

Two-thirds of gray divorces are initiated by women. Having put their needs aside to raise a family, and tired of a spouse who ignores their pleas for change, these women dread the years ahead in a “dead” marriage.

Once the kids are gone, these women choose to end the marriage, opting for a new, more rewarding life and relationships.

The Tweet on Gray Marriage is here.