What is Gray Divorce?

Gray Divorce refers to the demographic trend of older couples divorcing from long-lasting marriages.  A Bowling Green University study found that divorce rates among couples over 50 doubled from 1990 to 2010 and more than doubled for those over 65. The study also showed that 1 in 4 Americans going through divorce is over 50. ABC News indicates a recent study shows this doubling trend has continued over the last two years.

Why do couples divorce in their senior years? There are a whole host of reasons why couples divorce later in life. One article describes some of the common reasons

  • Growing apart
  • Financial struggles and differences in spending habits
  • Age factors or age differences
  • Boredom
  • Sexual incompatibility or challenges

But why is this trend on the rise?  Here are a few of the reasons why divorce rates are increasing for couples over 50:

  • Social stigma associated with divorce has significantly lessened over time
  • People are commonly in their second marriage, which have higher rates of divorce
  • Life expectancies are increasing, leaving more years for marriages to end in divorce before they end in death.
  • Women are increasingly more financially independent

Areas of Consideration in Gray Divorce:

Divorces can be incredibly complicated, emotional, and challenging on many levels. For couples divorcing over the age of 50, there are unique considerations and potential ramifications to be aware of.

  • Assets: Equitable division of assets and liabilities that are community property are always at issue in divorces in Washington State and even more so for those divorcing late in life. Retirement accounts that include IRAs, 401Ks, pension plans, and even Social Security benefits that have been acquired and contributed to over many years are subject to allocation along community property lines. Divorce may pose a significant disruption to individual retirement goals if your dissolution is not handled properly. There are many factors that contribute to the financially complicated nature of Gray Divorce, making it extremely important to seek competent legal counsel from the outset.
  • Spousal Maintenance: In Washington, “maintenance” (what some may commonly call “alimony” in other states) in often awarded to one party in longer term marriages as part of the dissolution process. There are many factors and considerations you should discuss with your attorney in deciding whether to seek maintenance or to be aware of what your obligations may be in paying maintenance.
  • Children: Children of couples divorcing later in life should be considered during the process. Even though children in these cases are typically older, there is still an opportunity to compromise relationships and it is important to remain mindful of how they are affected.
  • Emotions: Divorce is never easy, and increases stress and likelihood for depression. If you are divorcing later in life, chances are you had a longer marriage and many years of emotional attachment. You might be scared or excited as you prepare to enter your next phase of life, but likely your emotions are complex. Be attentive and aware of yourself and your own emotional health. Utilize your support network. Seek the counsel of an attorney in your dissolution early on to get your questions answered and to help alleviate the stress unknowns can bring.
  • The legal process: You will need an experienced divorce attorney to help you navigate this complicated and emotional process objectively. Our family law attorneys at Dellino Law Group have the expertise, knowledge, compassion, and experience to assist you effectively and collaboratively as you enter the next phase of your life. Please contact us for a consultation