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Divorcing Later in Life: How "Gray Divorce" Is Different


As divorce rates for the public at large level off, there's one demographic where divorce rates are actually increasing: seniors. So-called "gray divorces" have been on the rise since the Baby Boomer generation started reaching retirement age, and the unique issues senior citizens bring to a split can catch even a previously divorced couple by surprise.

If you're over 65, and involved in a divorce or you think you might be soon, it helps to know how gray divorce is different from splits among younger couples.

In Some Ways, Gray Divorce Is Easier

Believe it or not, getting divorced late in life can be easier than splitting up in middle age, at least in some ways. Your children, for instance, are likely to be grown by the time you're in your 60s or 70s, so unless you're Tony Randall, the issues of custody, visitation and child support probably aren't going to factor into your settlement. That leaves property division and spousal support as the remaining major factors in your gray divorce, though a surprising number of divorcing seniors seek some kind of protective order during their split.

The division of debts is a double-edged sword in gray divorce. While you're probably finished paying off your student loans and may have bought your last car for cash, many seniors still have a (relatively small) unresolved remainder on their mortgages. In addition to the normal debts a couple incurs, seniors are more likely than most to carry debts related to travel expenses and medical care. Splitting these debts works much like splitting up any other debt during a divorce, though in the case of medical bills, one party may try to assign the debt solely to the person who incurred it, rather than treating it as community property. State laws vary here, and it never hurts to check with a professional to see where you stand.

Gray Divorce Can Be Complicated, Especially When It Comes to Property

In addition to senior-specific debts, the property division in a gray divorce can be especially challenging. If the two of you have been together all your adult lives, it's all but certain that you've accumulated more marital assets than a younger couple would have. The equity in your house, titles to multiple vehicles (and maybe a boat or camper), vacation homes and personal assets, such as jewelry or an antique watch collection, may all be up for grabs in a gray divorce. Splitting this property equitably is similar to how younger couples do it, but the volume and complexity of your married property practically demands that you sit with an accountant and draft a comprehensive inventory of all that you own.

This can be a bigger job than you think. When you're declaring property for the court papers, you're usually expected to estimate the property's value in a separate column. This is pretty easy to do when you're splitting up a 401(k) or an IRA, which have an exact monetary value that can be expressed in dollars and cents, but it gets harder when you have to estimate the value of a diamond ring, which is worth whatever the market will pay for it. Worse, and actually more likely in a gray divorce, some of the real estate and collectible items you own together may not have been on the market for decades, which can make it really hard to guess how much your vacation cabin (bought in 1983 for $45,000) is worth today. You may find it helpful to call a real estate or investment advisor for advice, especially if you can't come to an agreement on value between yourselves.

It's over easy provides in-platform chat and communication tools — and a comprehensive wizard that walks you through entering asset information. This makes it easy to work together online to ensure everything is documented and that you agree with each other, all without losing information as you go through the process.




Special Considerations in a Gray Divorce

Property and debts aren't the only special considerations of a gray divorce, and some of the special issues you're facing can be especially vexing. Unlike younger couples, you're probably beyond the stage where you're investing in a retirement fund, and may be in the stage where you're drawing from it. It probably isn't to your advantage to split up or dissolve that account, but it can easily become a football to kick around during a gray divorce, especially if it is your main source of income now that you're both retired.

As is the case in any divorce, the matter is a lot easier to handle if the two of you are splitting up on amicable terms. You, and the other seniors who are facing the prospect of a gray divorce, are lucky here; in theory, your years have given you both a bit of wisdom and emotional maturity, both of which can ease the process and help you stay friends when it's all over. Unlike younger divorcing couples, you and your spouse can hopefully avoid the strain that comes from jealousy, insecurity and the prospect of children being used as bargaining chips between you.

Your advanced emotional maturity comes in handy with another of gray divorce's unfortunate effects: the loyalty of friends. In a younger couple's divorce, it often happens that mutual friends of the couple feel pulled between warring parties, and sometimes an old friendship cools or ends entirely when a couple splits up. If you're old enough for a gray divorce, you've probably had most of your friends for decades, and a complete separation is unlikely. People of a certain age are – again, theoretically – experienced enough to know that staying friends with one divorcing party doesn't necessarily have implications for their friendship with the other.

If you're over 65 and divorcing, or if you have friends going through this who need your support, you can read through some of her other articles at it's over easy to get better informed about the special considerations that a gray divorce brings with it.

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