The term "gray divorce" generally refers to divorces which occur when the spouses are in the 50-59 age group. Sometimes, these are also referred to as "empty nest divorces." Over the last few years, these divorces have increased by 40 percent overall, and 25 percent of marriages that have lasted more than 20 years end in divorce, according to recent statistics.
There are many ways a divorce at age 59, for example, differs from that of someone in their 20's. Some are obvious, such as the relevance of child custody and support issues, as older couples' children are often adults or almost out of the nest. However, there are other issues common in gray divorces that may not be as common in those of shorter-term marriages, mainly those involving finances and healthcare concerns. In an interview with Divorce Magazine, Judge Lynn C. Toler discussed some of the major differences between these types of divorces, including:
Often a couple married for more than 20 years have jointly acquired more financial assets by this time in their lives, and as Judge Toler puts it, "may have a fair amount of 'gold'." 'Gold' in family law often means established businesses; large retirement fields; securities; and land or second homes. Because one spouse may be more familiar with the specifics of these various assets (some are more complicated than others), it may be wise to enlist the services of a financial advisor to help sort things out.
In addition, those spouses who are in (or close to) retirement may to adjust their lifestyle to accommodate living on half of what they have saved over the years. Retirement plans vary, and how they are divided up can become complicated. Oftentimes a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) must be drafted in order to divide retirement accounts.
In this day and age, we all understand how important health insurance coverage is, even for a healthy person. However, healthcare becomes an increasing concern the older we get, and it is often a benefit tied to employment or secured by one's spouse. Judge Toler said that "decoupling that and demystifying Medicare" is very important and should not be overlooked during a divorce process.
After a long-term marriage, the divorcing parents still must deal with the changes that occur involving their grown children. For example, the children are affected because of change in family traditions, holidays, and time with grandchildren.
After any divorce, long-term legal arrangements need to be reviewed, but this is especially so in a gray divorce. This include wills and trusts, which need to reflect your post-divorce desires. Because medical directives for long-term care and living wills were drawn up assuming the other spouse would make critical decisions, new provisions will likely need to be implemented.
With this growing trend of gray divorces, new resources have developed to serve the special needs of older divorcees. Judge Toler encourages those in this situation to seek them out because "information is power." If you're older and contemplating divorce, you are welcome to contact our office at 978-844-4095 to schedule a consultation with of our experienced attorney, Renee Lazar. We understand how confusing the process can be, and we are here to help secure your future - no matter your age.