Although the term “gray divorce” may have you thinking about a popular movie that depicts an unlikely couple engaging in titillating activities, the term is actually quite the opposite. A gray divorce refers to the dissolution of a marriage between two people who are over the age of 50.
Many people whose marriages have lasted more than ten years think they are relatively safe from divorce. They’ve cruised past the “seven year itch,” after all! Probably even more people whose marriages have lasted more than 25 years think they’ve got it made. At that point, their children are grown, their homes are typically paid off, and other stressors that contributed to any strife in the marriage are usually gone. These couples have already been through the hard part of life, and they can now look forward to enjoying their retirement together, right?
Wrong! It appears that the divorce rate for people over 50 has doubled over the last 20 years, according to new research. And these “gray divorces” may catch many people by surprise.
Why Are Gray Divorces Becoming More Prevalent?
Of course, it is impossible to identify one particular reason why couples who have been married for decades choose to separate. And, for each couple, it’s probably a combination of multiple factors.
Some gray divorces happen because each partner stayed with the marriage just “for the kids.” The partners could get along and work together as co-parents, but they no longer shared a deep connection with one another. Once the kids’ well-being was no longer a factor, the couple elected to split.
Some gray divorces come about as people evaluate their futures. People are living longer now. As spouses contemplate spending decades together as retirees, they may assess whether they really want to be together for that time. When spouses have drifted apart, one or both may realize that they do not want to spend their remaining years with someone with whom they do not share a lot of the same interests and passions.
Understand Your Finances Before Divorce
Another difficult aspect of gray divorces is dividing marital property. When two people have been married for a long time, they usually divide chores in a way that makes sense for them. For example, the couple might decide that one spouse typically does the grocery shopping while the other typically pays the bills. If you are not the bill-paying spouse, you may not have any idea about your finances, or know the first thing about taking care of them. Before you divorce, you must quickly familiarize yourself with yours and your spouse’s financial situations.
You need to know where your accounts are and what funds are in each account. You need to know how many credit cards you and your spouse have. You also need to know what assets you and your spouse own, as well as what debts you have. You should investigate retirement accounts, IRAs, 401(k) accounts, and pensions. You may be held responsible for the balances of your debts, or may not get what you are entitled to as far as your investments are concerned. It’s important to gather as many details about your joint financial history as possible to ensure that you get what you are owed. Talking to an attorney who has experience in gray divorces can tell you where to start looking if you’re not sure.
Are you a woman over the age of 50 who is contemplating filing a divorce? If so, you should prepare yourself. These divorces can be complicated by many issues that may not be as significant to younger couples. Contact Paul Nathan, an experienced San Francisco family lawyer who exclusively represents women. He can talk to you about the specific issues that matter in your particular situation. You may get in touch with him at 415-341-1144 or by filling out our online contact form.