Gray Divorce: Ending Marriage Later in Life

Gray Divorce: Ending Marriage Later in LifeThe idea of divorce often conjures up images of young couples deciding to call it quits after discovering they don’t get along after all. While this is certainly true in some cases, statistics show that gray divorces are gaining momentum far faster than younger divorces.

What is gray divorce?

A gray divorce is a divorce that occurs when one or both spouses are over the age of 50, or the marriage has existed for at least 20 years. Some experts believe gray divorce is on the rise because many people’s financial situations have stabilized since the recession. Rather than being bound in an unhappy marriage for fear of losing house and home, people have more opportunity to start anew. No matter the cause of the trend, gray divorce brings a unique set of complications.

Important matters to consider in a gray divorce include:

  • Retirement benefits: Younger couples who choose divorce likely have little interest in retirement plans, as any such plans would be minimal in value. For older couples getting divorced, retirement plan benefits can represent the most complex issue in their divorce. In some instances, intentionally postponing retirement until the gray divorce finalizes may be helpful.
  • Asset and debt division: As it is complex to divide retirement benefits, it can be challenging to fairly divide the assets and debts of a divorcing couple that has been together for decades, since more assets are likely to be considered marital property (or community property). In general, the more assets subject to property division, the more complicated the process will be. This can include investments, business interests, homes and real estate, private practices, retirement accounts, pensions, and debts.
  • Life and health insurance: Divorcing couples over the age of 50 will need to consider life insurance policies. Additionally, health insurance or long-term care insurance may no longer be affordable for the spouse who earned less income during marriage. Reobtaining insurance after a gray divorce can be difficult.
  • Competency: Family law matters cannot be concluded confidently if there is reason to believe someone is incompetent, or unable to understand his or her own decisions and best interests. This concern can be exacerbated in gray divorce if a spouse may be suffering from cognitive decline.

Read our comprehensive Gray Divorce guide

For further information on the social and legal issues surrounding Gray Divorce:

If you are considering divorce later in life, we invite you to contact McKinley Irvin and our Washington divorce attorneys. Our comprehensive legal counsel is delivered with compassion, care, and insight that only years of legal experience can provide. Contact our team for first-rate assistance.

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