Most couples get married with the hope and expectation that their marriage will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, this is not always the case despite our best efforts.
For some, ending a marriage in divorce may ultimately be best for both parties. And this can be true no matter what stage in life you are in.
While divorce rates in the United States have decreased generally in recent years, for older couples, rates have actually increased. Thus, if you are considering an end to your marriage later in life, you are not alone.
In this article, we will discuss the ins and outs of gray divorce, common legal issues in late-life separations, and how an attorney can help you move forward.
What Is Gray Divorce?
Gray divorce is a term used to describe a divorce between two individuals who are at a later stage in life. While there is no clearly defined age at which someone’s divorce will be considered a “gray” divorce, such a divorce is typically between spouses who are both over the age of 50.
A common misconception is that couples who remain married beyond a certain age are in it for the “long haul.” And while this is certainly true for some couples, for others, this may not be true.
According to a 2016 report published by the United States Census Bureau in 2021, 16.9% of men and 14.0% of women between 55-64 who responded got divorced within the preceding 12 months. Thus, late-stage divorce is more common than you may have expected.
Factors Leading to Gray or Elderly Divorce
There are several reasons for gray divorce, also referred to as elderly divorce. Below are some factors that commonly lead to gray divorce among older couples:
- Empty Nest Syndrome. When a couple who has raised children together no longer has those children in the home, their lives can change significantly. Many couples choose to stay together longer than they otherwise would have for the sake of their children. However, without this common thread tying them together, some couples find that they no longer have any reason to remain married.
- Retirement. Retirement is another big life change frequently leading to divorce between older couples. As couples approach retirement, they may find that their ideas of how they wish to spend the rest of their lives differ significantly, leading them to go their separate ways.
- Changes in Society and Social Norms. Relatively recent societal acceptance of LGBTQIA+ relationships has also allowed many to feel more comfortable with themselves. As a result, many individuals in heterosexual marriages have felt empowered to end their marriages and pursue new relationships as their true selves.
- Reduced Stigmas Surrounding Divorce. Societal changes have also led to increased divorce rates among elderly couples. For example, whereas divorce, generally, used to be more taboo and frowned upon, recent changes in social norms have reduced the negative stigma associated with divorce, allowing some to feel more comfortable ending a marriage in divorce.
No matter the precise circumstances and no matter your age, there is no need to force a marriage that is no longer working. Speak with an attorney today to discuss your options and see whether gray divorce may be right for you.
Gray Divorce: Legal Issues in Late-Life Separation to Be Aware of
When it comes to gray divorce, there are many legal issues that may come up as you pursue the end of your marriage. Below are some things to keep in mind as you move forward with your divorce.
As with any divorce, a key item that must be addressed is the division of the marital estate. Property division in a gray divorce can be complicated, as the couple will often acquire a great deal of property, including both assets and debts, throughout their many years together, all of which must be divided.
Spousal Support (Alimony)
Spousal support in a gray divorce can also be complicated. Spousal support is typically awarded on a case-by-case basis and will depend on various factors, such as the respective earning capacity of the spouses, the financial resources available, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
However, due to the age of many individuals in a gray divorce, the parties may no longer be getting a regular salary if they are retired. As a result, this may make alimony-related matters more complicated.
Because many individuals in a gray divorce may no longer be working regular jobs, some may feel there are financial barriers to getting a divorce. However, don’t let this prevent you from seeking a divorce and living the life you see for yourself.
While it is true that seeking a divorce will come at a cost, there are ways to keep costs affordable. And at the end of the day, this cost is likely well worth it.
Health Insurance and Benefits
Another common concern for many when it comes to gray divorce is the potential loss of health insurance coverage under a spouse’s plan. Losing your healthcare coverage and being faced with the possibility of having to pay expensive premiums can feel overwhelming.
Because this can be a complex legal topic, it’s important to speak with an experienced attorney who can provide the information and advice you need to make the best decisions for your situation.
When to Speak with a Gray Divorce Lawyer
Going through a divorce is never easy, and gray divorce is no exception. Nevertheless, ending your marriage in divorce can sometimes be what’s ultimately best for you and your family moving forward.
At The Larson Law Office, PLLC, our focus is on getting individuals and their families the best representation possible during some of the most difficult and complicated times in their lives. We are a husband and wife team, and we pride ourselves on providing each of our clients with exceptional and personalized client service. Thus, when you hire The Larson Law Office, you can rest assured knowing that you will get just that—Diana or Erik Larson.
Give us a call to get started and see how The Larson Law Office can help you with your gray divorce today.