Surviving Divorce after 50 aka “The Gray Divorce”

Surviving Divorce after 50 aka “The Gray Divorce”

Family Law – Divorce

Divorcing later in life- also called “Gray Divorce”

David Hands, Managing Attorney

With approximately 50% of American marriages ending in divorce, it is no surprise that couples who have been married for twenty years or more are a growing part of the trend, too.  Sometimes referred to as Gray Divorce, older couples, oftentimes with grown children, are deciding to end their marriages.

Baby Boomers, a term used to describe those born post WWII,  make up a large part of the growing trend. In some cases, costly medical care and the economic strain that it places on the household budget plays a part. However, in many cases Baby Boomers contemplate divorce because they are entering into the next phase of their life and their children are grown and out building their lives with families of their own.  These couples have entered into the world of retirement and realize that they are facing the prospect of spending a great deal of time with a person it turns out they don’t really like.

According to a recent Pew Center Report, the divorce rates of couples 50-years-old or older have doubled since the 1990s.   While divorce rates have decreased among couples ages 25-39 by 21% in 2015, rates for couples between the ages of 40-49 increased by 14%. It is the 50+ divorce rate that makes one do a double take as divorce has sky rocketed by  109%.* With people living on average about 30 years longer than they once did, it is possible that these gray divorces are one of the possible unintended side effects.

And children, no matter their age, are emotionally impacted when their parents decide to end their marriage.  What the children of these gray divorces also find to be true is that most counseling services are almost focused on the impact a divorce can have on young children.  “The effect on adult children is undocumented,” said Susan L. Brown, a sociology professor at Bowling Green State University, whose 2012 study with I-Fen Lin, “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” established that the divorce rate among people 50 and older had doubled in the previous 20 years.

But another fact that has to be taken into account is the financial impact divorcing has on a person’s retirement.  The Pew Report points out those gray divorcees tend to be less financially secure than married and widowed counterparts.

Women are more likely than men to find themselves less economically stable after a gray divorce.  Though not always the case, even with many married couples both working full-time jobs, women are more likely to have saved less than their husbands. Decisions like taking time off from their careers to have children, raise a family and other reasons are more likely to have been made by women in this age demographic.  This fact can lead to women having less in their retirement accounts than their husbands, a fact compounded when it comes to divorce.

And then there is the fact that, demographically speaking, Baby Boomers made up an exceptionally large number of divorce rates when they were younger.  This in turn can make divorce finances more complicated in today’s gray divorces since these marriages may have had added financial complications of children from a previous marriage and ex-spouses.

So how can you make it through a gray divorce?

  • Accounting

Keep track of EVERYTHING including bank accounts, deeds/mortgages,car titles, etc.

  • Dates

See above and apply the same to date of marriage, date of separation, etc.

  • Keep It Simple

If possible, don’t try to overly complicate things with distribution.  This will help, particularly when one or both parties have minimal resources.

  • Speak to Your Children

Be honest with your children. Whether they are yours, mine or ours tell them what is going on, preferably in person rather than over the phone. It will give them some comfort. Resist the urge to drag them into the divorce as well.

  • Communicate

If you are on good terms with your “soon to be ex” then talk to one another.  You might be amazed at what you can accomplish by having a simple conversation aside from lawyers and judges.

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