Gray divorce refers to the increasing divorce rate for older couples in long-term marriages. If you’re facing a divorce later in life, here’s what you should know.
Divorce can be difficult and emotionally draining, especially after long-term marriage. Gray Divorce is often referred to as “diamond divorce,” a phrase which has been coined for the increasing number of late-in-life divorces.
The overall U.S. divorce rate is dropping but the number of divorces after age 50 is surging. The reason is a generational divide: Americans in their 20s, 30s and 40s are delaying and, in some cases, skipping marriage. Those who do get hitched are likelier to stay together. Meanwhile, baby boomers — who caused the divorce rate to surge starting in the 1970s — are continuing to divorce at higher rates as they age.
If you’re thinking about, or going through a divorce later in life, here’s what you need to know.
What is Gray Divorce?
As mentioned above, gray divorce refers to a demographic trend that has witnessed an increase in the split or separation of older couples who have been married for a long time. The term began to be used in the United States in 2004, but the practice had already been prevalent for about 20 years. You need to know that the consequences of getting divorced after 50 can be incredibly impactful, both financially and emotionally, to older people and their families.
Splitting up after age 50 may be particularly hazardous to your emotional and financial health, far worse than doing so at younger ages. A wave of new research is quantifying the damage.
“It’s a grim picture,” said Susan Brown, a Bowling Green State University sociology professor and co-director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, which has generated many of the new findings. According to one study, people who’ve gone through a gray divorce report higher levels of depression than those whose spouses died.
The need for retirement benefits becomes more critical when you divorce later in life because people have less time to “make up” any losses they may face pursuant to a divorce. Understanding what benefits are available, and how they can be distributed, is paramount as you plan for a separate future.
Reasons For Gray Divorce
Divorce is one of the most challenging parts of anyone’s life, but sometimes it is inevitable. Asides from generational differences, there have been a couple recurring themes linked to it.
Financial Issues: One of the most popular reasons is financial problems. Financial problems are problematic during any part of a marriage. When one partner has trouble keeping to a budget, especially if the other is a primary breadwinner, the outcome isn’t always favorable. One example of this is when one spouse makes an investment decision that goes sideways or loses money from a couple’s nest egg. On the other hand, if one of the partners earns all of the money in the household and; therefore, makes all of the decisions involving money, problems may arise.
Empty Nest Syndrome: Empty Nest Syndrome is also another popular reason why people look to get divorced later in life. When you’re in the prime of your life, you may have two or three kids that consume your time. Pets, family activities, charitable efforts and layers upon layers also keep you happy and active. In many cases, as children grow up and leave home, you spend more and more time at home. This leaves you with time to reflect on you and your partner not being who you were before.
Infidelity: Cheating on a spouse is another major reason for gray divorce. Infidelity does not carry the same stigma it did in earlier times, and this has led many married couples to stray. Combined with online dating sites encouraging infidelity, many are tempted by the lure of temporary, often younger sexual partners.
Growing Apart: Couples in gray divorce may have realized later in their lives that they lost the spark they had when they first married. Considering that the stigma around divorce is diminishing, they decide that divorce would be the best course of action.
Legal Considerations of a Gray Divorce
While the process of divorce is no different to those of younger divorcees, there are some special considerations unique to divorcing later in life.
Step one is identifying which assets are part of your marital estate and which assets are pre-marital possessions. This would be somewhat simple if you had only married your spouse two or three years ago, but after several decades of being together, memories of who owned what tend to blur together. Also, pre-marital assets can get mixed into marital assets, such as if your husband/wife used money in his/her pre-marriage savings account to buy your house after you were married.
The division of property can be complex. Assets to discuss with your family law attorney include:
- Health/Life Insurance Policies
- Property/Marital Home
- Social Security Benefits
- Retirement Benefits
Among the most important considerations is how best to ensure a good income stream and access to funds when needed. If older couples have been married for a significant period of time, spousal support may be more likely to be ordered. Additionally, this more often takes the form of permanent alimony. Lastly, postnuptial agreements (post divorce disputes) are signed after the date of marriage instead of before, and can address these issues such as debt, inheritances, and any other property the couple owns — such as a house — in the event of a separation.
Once you begin the stages of coming to terms and finalizing a gray divorce, it’s important to surround yourself with loved ones. Reconnect with old friends and family members that you have grown apart from over the years. Life gets in the way between being married and raising a family, focusing on your career and being involved in your community. It is time to reshuffle your priorities and place your needs first.
Divorce cases involving older individuals and substantial assets or complex estates require specialized knowledge. Masters Law Group is skilled at identifying and valuing assets and wealth, including real estate, securities, business interests, retirement funds, pension plans, tax shelters (domestic and foreign), overseas accounts, stock options, trusts and other actual or potential sources of wealth.
If you’re looking for attorneys who are highly experienced Gray Divorce in Illinois, Masters Law group has a unique depth of knowledge, experience and talent in the Family Law and Gray Divorce field.