Are There More Grey Divorces?
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Are There More Grey Divorces?

Facts, Figures and Reasons

As our population is aging, the Gray Divorce is on the rise. Having a 'midlife crisis' is a 'thing' that we often hear about, but what exactly is a midlife crisis, and does it even exist?

Many years ago there were fewer divorces - marriages did not last as long due to shorter life expectancies and death of spouses at an earlier age. These days however, folks live longer and there are more cases of people simply growing apart. Couples often face an empty nest when the last child moves out or goes to college, forcing many to question and re-evaluate the happiness in their lives, face inevitable mortality, question accomplishments, and want to make the most out of their remaining years. Neale Godfrey wrote the article 'The Rise of Gray Divorce:  Why and Why Not?' about the Tipper and Al Gore Syndrome in her article for Kiplinger.

The impact of social media, such as Facebook, contributes to as much as a third of all divorces. With people living into their 80s and 90s on a routine basis, many people are stuck with each other much longer, hence a growing divorce rate among long-term marriages. By long-term, we are talking about 20 years. and longer. In addition, the divorce rate is 2.5 times higher in second and third marriages involving people in their 50s, 60s, and older.

There are several issues that impact people in their 50s, 60s, and even older when they divorce.

  1. It takes longer to recoup and recover after a divorce when you are older and have less time to rebuild your economic structure. This is especially true if retirement is looming.
  2. For someone out of the job market, especially, women, it is harder to find work. If you were once earning a substantial income, it is much more difficult to find comparable employment. The reality is that you are competing with youngsters in an economy where benefits such as health insurance are much cheaper for someone who is younger. Additionally, you often will not have the skill set that is needed in our rapidly changing high tech work place, squeezing you out of a position.
  3. Social security can be an issue. Federal law governs in this area with the rule that you must be married for at least 10 years to collect social security from your spouse based upon a divorce.
  4. In a long-term marriage, where social security is in pay status, questions arise such as should it be equalized, and should alimony be based upon the amount of social security being received?
  5. Another question to consider is whether pensions be used to defray or buy out some of these issues.
  6. Health issues can be critical with older divorce clients, and these must be recognized and taken into account. Depression, stress and anxiety often increase in grey divorcees. Heidi Goodman, a contributor to U.S. News & World Report, wrote an interesting article 'Divorcing After 50:  How Grey Divorce Affects Your Health' which discusses numerous health issues and supporting data. 
  7. Alimony is often in place long-term or until death. It must be remembered that if someone is close to retirement, the spousal support could end, or be drastically reduced at that time.
  8. Dividing assets and debts can be a major issue especially if you are close to retirement.
  9. You may have to postpone your retirement or rethink your life in the event of a grey divorce.
  10. These are all issues that must be explored with your attorney if you fit into this growing part of our population.

Divorce can be difficult and emotionally draining, especially after long-term marriage.  Joining a support group or finding a family lawyer you trust to guide you through the process can help you throughout the process.


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