Frequently referred to as “gray divorce,” divorce after the age of 50 can present unique challenges. While divorce at any age can be difficult and life-altering, the emotional and financial impact of a gray divorce can be particularly difficult to navigate.
Particularly for couples who have been married for many decades, the idea of starting over can be daunting and overwhelming. Many people in their 50s may have particular concerns about loneliness and companionship and may worry they will find themselves facing diminished opportunities for dating or remarriage.
Financial considerations often come into play as well. People who have been married for a significant amount of time have often built up considerable joint assets that need to be divided in the event of a divorce, making it more complicated than if they had gotten divorced earlier in life when those assets were less extensive.
What Is Gray Divorce?
Gray divorce, also known as silver separation or late-life divorce, is a term coined by the American Association of Retired People to describe a marriage dissolution that occurs after age 50. This type of divorce has become increasingly common in recent decades, with the rate among American adults aged over 50 doubling since 1990, even as the overall divorce rate has fallen.
As attitudes around divorce have become more accepting, especially for women, people over 50 have become more willing to break away from unhappy unions, regardless of the challenges that might arise. And as more people - especially women - are financially independent later in life, people have felt more free to leave unsatisfactory marriages without fear of financial insecurity.
Financial Challenges of Gray Divorce
Despite these trends, people divorcing later in life face many challenges. Gray divorce can be especially difficult financially, as couples who have been married for a long time may have built up significant joint assets. Assets such as real estate, retirement accounts, and investments must be divided in the event of a gray divorce, creating a complex financial situation. It is also often difficult to determine the true value of certain assets and how they should be divided between the two parties.
It's important to understand that, in many cases, one spouse may need to provide spousal support or alimony payments to the other spouse. In California, marriages lasting longer than 10 years are eligible for long-term spousal support. Especially if one partner has sacrificed their career or earning potential to help support the other one’s career, the court will likely consider these and other factors in granting alimony. The court will be loath to leave one spouse in a vulnerable financial position after the divorce.
It's also important for couples to consider the impact divorce may have on their tax burden. Couples will need to figure out who will pay which taxes on any shared assets that are sold during the process of dividing up property. Without proper tax planning, this could lead to a heavy burden for one of the parties involved in the divorce.
Health insurance and medical costs are also important financial considerations to keep in mind during gray divorce. As people age, health care needs tend to increase, and the cost of health care can be quite high. During a gray divorce, both parties will need to make sure they have adequate access to health insurance coverage that meets their individual needs, which may involve switching providers or paying for private insurance if either party has been relying on their spouse’s employer-provided plan. In addition, any accumulated medical debt must be divided between the two parties in accordance with the terms of their divorce settlement. This can add another layer of complexity onto an already complicated financial situation.
Emotional Challenges of Gray Divorce
The emotional challenges of gray divorce can be especially difficult to endure. After having been married for so long, many people struggle to imagine their lives without the companionship that their spouse provided. People who are divorcing after retirement age may worry that they will struggle to find companionship following the divorce. Many people fear that they will experience loneliness in their later years, but it’s important to remember that divorce may also offer opportunities for new kinds of connection and community.
Whether you were the one to initiate the divorce or whether you were caught off guard by your partner's decision, it is normal to struggle with many emotions such as sadness, insecurity, fear, guilt, or loneliness as you adjust to this new reality. Without adequate support from friends and family members during this time it can be difficult for either partner to move on emotionally from their divorce. In many cases, professional therapy can be a helpful support while you process the complicated emotions resulting from a divorce later in life.
Older couples may also have grown children who may feel caught in the middle between their parents during this difficult time. Children of all ages can be affected by their parent’s divorce, but it can be particularly difficult for adult children who are already dealing with life transitions such as marriage or starting a career. This can further complicate the emotional dynamics of a gray divorce and make it even more difficult for family members to cope.
Consult an Experienced Divorce Attorney for Gray Divorce
It is important that anyone facing a divorce after the age of 50 consult an experienced divorce attorney who can help them navigate the complex legal issues involved in gray divorce. A compassionate divorce lawyer will be able to provide advice about dividing up joint property such as investments and retirement accounts, provide guidance about spousal support obligations, and will advocate for your interests during any negotiations or litigation.
At Burch Shepard Family Law Group, our experienced and compassionate divorce attorneys are here to help you and your family through this difficult process. We understand the unique challenges that a gray divorce can present. With over 100+ years of combined legal experience, our team can help ensure that your transition into your post-divorce life as smooth and stress-free as possible.
If you are facing a gray divorce, please contact us online or call us at (949) 565-4158 to schedule a consultation. We are here to help you and your family make it through this difficult time with as little stress as possible.