What You Should Understand About "Gray" Divorce

Divorce is tough for many people. It’s especially hard on older women, many of whom have to deal with losing a life partner and moving into a lower economic bracket at the same time. “Gray” divorce is far more common now than ever, with Kiplinger reporting that the divorce rate for couples over 50 has more than doubled over the past 25 years (https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T065-C032-S014-the-rise-of-gray-divorce-why-and-why-not.html).
If you are an older woman who is considering divorce or legal separation, you will need to learn about the complications of a divorce at your age. It’s also wise to seek the help of a family law attorney to ensure your older years will still be golden.

Gray Divorce Landscape

As reported by the Congressional Research Service, 15 percent of divorced women over the age of 65 live below poverty thresholds, compared to only 4 percent of married women in the same age group (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45791.pdf). It’s likely many women in this age group stayed home and raised children or supported their spouse’s career in lieu of their own, which makes them more financially vulnerable at divorce.
This can be a very troubling situation to be in, but keep in mind that you should not stay in a bad marriage because you are worried about finances. Your attorney will help you fight for what you are entitled to because of your investment in the marriage and the assets accrued during that time.

Areas of Concern to Consider

In a gray divorce, there are a lot of issues that may be less crucial in a divorce involving a younger couple. Conflict over the division of any retirement benefits and confusion over asset or account beneficiaries, Medicare and health insurance benefits, healthcare costs overall and spousal support may all crop up. In addition, if you were financially dependent on your spouse, you likely feel you will need more support because it’s less likely you will be able to start a well-paying career at your age. For a spouse who will likely be the one paying, there may be concerns about the ability to keep up on any support payments as retirement nears.
The need for retirement funds is often more crucial when you are divorcing later in life because you will have less time to “make up” losses you could face due to the divorce. This is why knowing what benefits are available and how they may be distributed is very important as you plan your new and separate future.

Avenues for Your Case

You have more than one option to resolve your gray divorce. While you can go to court and have a trial, during which the judge will decide the issues of your case, be aware this option tends to be the most expensive and takes the longest to go through. Of course, if you are unable to come to agreements about major issues in your case, you may need to go to court, so be sure you are working with an attorney who has experience in this setting.
Another option is collaborative divorce. In this approach, both you and your spouse hire attorneys, and then all four of you work together to settle all the matters in your divorce or legal separation. You can also use a mediator or bring a mediator into your collaborative divorce if you are stuck on some issues; the mediator is a neutral third party who can help you come to an agreement.
If you feel your spouse is going to file for divorce, don’t wait until you officially receive papers. Contact a lawyer with experience in gray divorces now so you are prepared for what is to come.