People often think of divorce as something that occurs within a few years of a couple getting married. While that may have once been the case, that is no longer an accurate depiction of why and when divorce occurs in the United States.
Divorce rates among younger couples have dropped, while older couples in long-term marriages are now divorcing more frequently. When a couple close to or past retirement age that has stayed married for decades decides to divorce, people call that a gray divorce.
What are the main differences between a gray divorce and one involving younger people?
There is usually far more property to split
Older couples often no longer have minor children and therefore don’t need a custody plan, but they probably have a lot of property to divide. They may share a primary residence where they have completely paid off the mortgage or could have six or seven figures in accumulated retirement savings and investments. With more property to divide comes more conflict and more potential for misconduct by either spouse. Dissipation and hiding assets can become major issues in a gray divorce.
There may be a major discrepancy in economic circumstances
Older couples may have a significant difference in their individual financial situations. One spouse may have learned far more than the other, meaning they have much more property in their names. A dependent spouse who was out of the workforce for years may not be in a position after a gray divorce to accumulate new job skills and find work.
Long-term marriages have a strong correlation with alimony or spousal support. Especially if there are retirement benefits that the couple can’t directly divide, the one who receives those benefits may have to pay a portion of that to the other.
There will still be backlash from the children in the family
In a gray divorce, the children in the family won’t live with their parents anymore. They have typically moved out to develop careers or start their own families.
Although you might think that the extra distance would make them less reactive to the divorce, the opposite is often true. Minor children are not in a position in many cases to openly declare whose side they want to take in a divorce, but adult children certainly can. There may be more family fallout from a gray divorce than from a divorce at a younger age because of the behavior of adult children.
Understanding the unique challenges of a gray divorce can give you the courage to move forward with your filing.