Despite the fact that the overall divorce rate has declined in recent years, the rate of divorce for those 50 and over has doubled, with the rate for those 65 and over even higher. These breakups have become known as “Gray Divorce.” There are several factors that help account for this increase.
Many of these couples are so-called baby boomers; they married at a time when divorce was on the rise. This, coupled with the fact that people in remarriages are more likely to divorce than those in first marriages, may be one of the factors leading to the increase.
Less Stigma Attached to Getting Divorced
Many couples who are not happy in their marriage stay together for the sake of their children. In the past, even after the children were grown and had moved out of the house, many remained married. These past generations of older couples grew up in a time when divorce was looked upon differently; today there is less stigma attached.
Changes in Women’s Financial Situations
Another factor that may have played a role in the increase in divorce among older couples is the financial situation of many women. In recent years, it has become more common for women in this age group to be the ones to initiate the divorce. This is likely because women of this generation are more likely to be financially independent than were their mothers and grandmothers.
Divorce is a complicated prospect no matter what the age of the parties involved. “Gray divorce,” however, has some special factors that make the process even more complex. The following is a brief description of some of the things that should be considered when divorce of an older couple is involved:
In addition to the fact that funds set aside for retirement will be cut in half, there may be other ramifications. Because it costs more for two people to live separately than it does for them to live together, it might become necessary to use retirement funds early or, conversely, to postpone using them until a date later than originally planned. Either scenario would have an effect on both parties’ income, whether one or both have to work additional years, and other aspects that affect lifestyle and quality of life.
Eligibility for Social Security is not decided in a divorce court; however, it is something that should be considered when discussing these issues with a divorce attorney. The spouse whose earnings were less may be entitled to spousal Social Security benefits if certain criteria are met.
Division of Assets
As in any divorce, when determining how assets are divided, a number of factors have to be taken into consideration. They include how long the marriage lasted, the age and health of each spouse, the value of joint and separate property, joint and separate debt, and whether or not there is a premarital agreement.
Health and Life Insurance
Once divorced, it is not possible to remain on a former spouse’s health insurance plan. The spouse who will not be covered will have to arrange different coverage.
Sometimes the competency of one of the parties comes into question. If one of the spouses is deemed incompetent, measures must be taken to protect that party’s interests.
Previous wills, powers-of-attorney, and other documents will have to be re-evaluated. So will long-term care arrangements.
Like any divorce, divorce among those 50 and older may seem overwhelming. If you are thinking about asking your spouse for a divorce or if your spouse has informed you of the desire to end your marriage, you should seek the guidance of a competent divorce attorney. The attorney will assess your situation and give you the advice and knowledge you need to get through this difficult situation and to get on with your life.