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Those getting a ‘gray’ divorce should know what to expect

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2023 | Family Law |

One age group that has seen a significant statistical spike in divorce is people 50 and above.

This is referred to as getting a “gray” divorce. Researchers and professionals have been assessing this phenomenon in recent years to determine why this is happening. Regardless of the reason for the divorce, there are common denominators. Knowing them beforehand can help with being prepared and avoiding the pitfalls others have faced.

Gray divorce has unique challenges

In the past, people who were 50 and older and were unsatisfied with their marriage might have simply stayed together with their spouse and made the best of it. Today, people are living longer and having a better quality of life into their 70s and 80s. This is believed to be a part of why there has been a spike in gray divorce. Still, there are considerations to assess when starting the process.

Property and asset division is part of every divorce. For older people who are approaching retirement, they tend to have items they have accrued over the years. That could be real estate, collectibles, automobiles, investment accounts and retirement accounts. Not everyone who is getting a gray divorce can afford to part ways with their spouse and not have a job. Sharing property and assets can be crucial to making ends meet.

A marital home could need to be sold and the proceeds split. In California, with the law dictating that marital property be shared equally, it can be important to maximize the value of property that is to be sold. In some cases, the retirement account will need to be shared even if only one person was the breadwinner. That is particularly true with an IRA that was opened while the couple was married. Since splitting retirement accounts can be complicated, it could be preferable to compromise or trade property to avoid this difficult issue.

Health care coverage is a worry at any age, but for older people who tend to need it more frequently, it is something to think about. Even if the person is approaching the age at which they will receive Medicare, they could have a few years where they need to be prepared. COBRA is an option where they can stay on the other person’s insurance for a set time. Health insurance might be something to factor in as part of a support order.

Many older couples were not dual-income as is common today. Even if a person worked, they could be limited in skills and education to get a job and support themselves in the current economy. For homemakers who were caring for children and running the household while the spouse worked, the support payments are essential. In some cases, the person does have marketable skills, but needs time to refresh their education and burnish their credentials. This can be addressed in the order.

People getting a gray divorce should be protected

Regardless of the perspective, those who are getting a gray divorce need to understand how this type of case differs from a divorce in which younger people are involved and prepare for every eventuality. This generally focuses on property division and spousal support. In some instances, there are still minors living in the home or the people care for grandchildren. This too should be assessed. Knowing the specific issues that come up in a gray divorce is a first step to being ready and reaching an acceptable resolution whether that is by negotiation or by going to court.