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Is a ‘gray divorce’ a consideration for you?

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP March 8, 2021

“Gray divorce,” or divorce over age 50, is not a new phenomenon, but it has become increasingly popular. While the overall divorce rate is declining, the gray divorce rate continued to rise over the past few decades. Are you in this demographic?

The reasons are as individual as the people who undertake a divorce late in life, but there are some common ones. They generally have to do with the stressors that come with this time of life. For example, it’s common to hear people say simply that they grew apart.

The social stigma has lessened around divorce, and people are living longer. Some people have a second career and . And, the “empty nest” can reveal deep fissures in the marriage.

Infidelity is another common issue for older people. Over the course of a long marriage, it may not be surprising that one spouse cheats, but it still hurts. Infidelity undermines the trust necessary to a healthy relationship, and some older people may not feel it’s worth trying to rebuild that trust.

Like many divorces, gray divorce may have its root in money problems. Financial stress is a risk factor for divorce, and people struggling with inadequate retirement savings, debt or other challenges may be more prone to split.

A growing problem for all demographic groups is addiction. For many people, addictions feel like a form of unfaithfulness. Addictions to drugs, alcohol, pornography or gambling can come between people who were once very close.

A few considerations surrounding gray divorce

For most people, gray divorce does not include a parenting or child support order, but that doesn’t mean there are no issues related to your children. Even adult children may find it difficult to process the end of your marriage, and there will be changes in your family dynamics.

The main area of difference between gray divorces and others is that the division of property and debt becomes more central. You’ll likely be dividing pensions, retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, life insurance policies, and Social Security benefits in addition to your other assets and debts.

Dividing pensions and retirement accounts needs to be done with a domestic relations order (DRO). This is a specific type of court order that authorizes the plan administrator to distribute funds out of one account to another trust account. This allows the transfer to be made without the plan participant incurring an early withdrawal penalty or a tax penalty.

If you’re over 50 and considering divorce, you’ll want to speak to an experienced divorce attorney who knows how to help you divide these complex property types.