Last Updated: September 29, 2022
Divorcing over 50 is commonly known as “gray divorce” and is a very different – sometimes more complex – divorce process. A recent client, we’ll call her Diane, told me about her story and why she had decided to get divorced after 28 years of marriage and at the age of 53. It had been almost three-decades of differences of opinions on a variety of issues. From raising children to religion to how to manage a budget properly. Virtually every important decision a married couple has to make together, Diane and her husband had disagreed on the majority of these core principles. Now that their 2-children were grown and both out of college, she decided it was time to move on.
Gray Divorce: Starting a New Chapter
Starting a new chapter in life when you are near or over 50 years old is a daunting proposition and having an attorney that understands these issues is important, as this is a critical time in a person’s life. Getting a free evaluation is the first step to finding out what rights you have.
Stayed Together for the Kids
Diane told me that she stayed together with her husband all this time, even though they had differences of opinion on so many issues because she thought it would be better for her children to grow up in a “stable” family environment. The problem here was that Diane was alone in her marriage and what she needed was a partner, not an adversary.
While staying together for the benefit of the children seems like it is a noble cause and, in many instances is good for them, too often one party is taken advantage of on a regular basis. Kids pick up on this behavior. Sometimes, breaking up is the best thing for children, because now, instead of having two parents always at odds with each other, they have two parents that agree to disagree. After the breakup, the fighting stops, which can be beneficial to a child’s emotional and mental well-being.
Complex Issues for Divorcing Over 50
There are many issues that people entering a “gray divorce” (named for people near or over 50 years of age) need to consider. One such concern is the aspect of alimony or spousal maintenance. Empty nesters need to consider what options they have available by speaking with an attorney, if you were a stay-at-home parent, you may deserve some temporary or even permanent maintenance. Retirement accounts and pensions may also need to be divided and chances are, there is a property that is paid off or close to it that needs to be divided or sold to share in the equity between the parties.
Reasons for a Gray Divorce
There are countless reasons why people get divorced, let alone after decades of being married. When we think about people over 50 getting divorced, the issues typically narrow (however even that is changing based on increasing life expectancies). Some of the most common reasons for people over 50 to file for divorce are:
- Married couple grew apart
- Lifestyle choices
When a married couple has spent decades together, it is normal for one or both people to have made significant changes in their beliefs and values. When those issues begin to get so far apart from each other, many couples over 50 decide that they just want to amicably separate and move on. The majority of gray divorce cases that fall into this category are people with grown children that will still get along and be friendly to each other – they just want out looks for a new partner (or enjoy time to themselves).
Money and Retirement Issues
Some couples are excellent at making budgets, saving or retirement, and deciding what they want to spend their money on (ie. big purchases). Others keep separate accounts and spend all their income on whatever they want without consulting the other spouse. Either situation can be good or bad – it just depends on the people involved.
Some people decide they’re fed up with the way money is managed by their spouse, and they decide its time to take control of their finances they’re own way. Other people view retirement as an issue – either it is very close, or they have entered retirement and want to spend their savings on different things. A gray divorce might take place because one spouse may want to move close to grown children and grandkids while another might want to head to Arizona or Florida.
Gray divorce happens most often because of lifestyle choices of people close to or in retirement. Some of this may be due to the health of the parties. Other times, it might be because one spouse wants to live an active lifestyle and travel while the other is a homebody. We see gray divorce take place because these lifestyle choices cannot be reconciled, and the couple sees no choice but to separate. If one spouse wants to stay in their house and the other wants to sell it, get an RV, and travel the country, here might be a problem.
Next Steps – Gray Divorce Help
Even though national divorce rates have decreased since the 1990’s, the most recent 10-years has shown us an increase from one in ten people 50 or older filing divorce to one in four. This trend defies any type of simple explanation, but one thing is certain, more older empty-nesters and baby boomers are finding themselves getting divorced than ever before. Speaking with an expert on gray divorce and getting a free consultation is a good first step to understanding your rights and helping you make an informed decision.