In recent years there has been a sizeable increase in the number of divorces between couples ages 50 and older. Divorce amongst older couples has become so prevalent that it has coined the term “gray divorce.” The issues in a gray divorce differ somewhat from the issues present in a divorce between younger couples.
Children and divorce
When a younger couple is divorcing, child-centered issues are often the most important issues to address. Child custody is a concern as is child support. The goal is to ensure the best interests of the child are met so the child can grow and thrive post-divorce. However, in a gray divorce it is likely that any children of the marriage are grown and out of the house, perhaps with families of their own. This means that child custody and child support are non-issues in a gray divorce. That does not mean that adult children are not impacted by their parent’s divorce. It’s just that divorce legal issues regarding minor children are not present in a gray divorce.
Finances and divorce
Issues that are very prevalent in a gray divorce, however, include property division and spousal support. Property division is often more complex in a gray divorce compared to a divorce between younger couples. An older couple likely owns a home and perhaps even a vacation home that will need to be divided. Just as important is retirement accounts. Both spouses going into a gray divorce are likely to have retirement accounts such as a 401(k) or pension that are subject to division. This is especially important as these spouses were depending on having two sources of retirement income between the two of them, and post-divorce will be living on a single retirement income.
Similarly, spousal support is a major issue in a gray divorce. Through spousal support one spouse will make periodic payments to the other spouse for that spouse’s living and care. If one spouse earned much more than the other while married or if one spouse stayed out of the workforce altogether while married, spousal support becomes very important.
A gray divorce can be simple or complex depending on the circumstances. Ultimately, it is important for anyone considering divorce to carefully examine their rights and options so they can make decisions that are in their best interests.