Facts About Gray Divorces
by guest author Lisa Green
Despite the headlines, most marriages last a lifetime. In fact, the overall divorce rate has been trending downward for some time now.
However, one demographic has seen a steady rise in the number of divorces: people age fifty and older.
They are called gray divorces. Between 1990 and 2010 the divorce rate for people fifty years and older increased by fifty percent. Nowadays, one quarter of the people who get divorced are over fifty years old.
Even though the individuals in gray divorcees are more mature, the experience of ending a marriage is as stressful for older couples as it is for their younger counterparts. Although there are some issues senior couples don’t usually have to deal with (like child custody), they do encounter some unique situations members of younger generations do not.
Here are some facts you may want to know about gray divorce.
Facts About Divorcing Couples Age Fifty and Older
Fact #1: Second marriages are more likely to end up in gray divorce. People tend to be older when they remarry. They may also have grown children with deep family roots. These blended families are more susceptible to clashes over wills, inheritances, and family assets.
They may also be more prone to struggles between adult children and stepparents over health care decisions for a spouse. This conflict undermines marital bonds between senior spouse and increases the chances of gray divorce.
Fact #2: Empty nesters are more vulnerable to gray divorce. Raising children, managing a household and sharing family experiences strengthen marriages over time. However, older spouses may begin to reassess their lives once the kids are grown and have moved out of the family home. Sometimes a senior spouse may want to pursue a lifelong dream they placed on hold when their children were young. Other times, the spouses’ interests have changed or they find out they do not really have a lot in common.
Fact #3: Alimony is more likely to be awarded to an older spouse than to younger ones. Most marriages involving older couples have lasted at least fifteen years. Longer marriages often decrease the earning power and employability of the spouse who was not the primary breadwinner. If decisions are left to judges, they are more likely to grant alimony because they are concerned about the lower-income spouse’s ability to support themselves or maintain a reasonable living. What constitutes a reasonable standard of living and how long alimony should last are debatable matters. Instead of taking chances on what a judge might decide, many couples resolve those questions with help from a family mediator.
Fact #4: Equitable distribution of assets is more challenging in gray divorces. Assets and debts such as bank accounts, retirement funds, and investment portfolios that have been built up over the course of a marriage must be divided between the two spouses. Unfortunately, seniors don’t have as much time as younger people to restore lost funds and pay off marital debt. This can make the equitable distribution of assets more complex to negotiate.
Fact #5: Older spouses are more likely to fight to keep the house. A senior divorcee may be more emotionally attached to the family home than a younger person. This is understandable because that is where they may have raised their children and spent a considerable part of their adult life. The spouse who wants to keep the house may have to relinquish other high-value marital assets as part of the divorce settlement.
To complicate things a little more, adult children of senior couples may want to lay claim to property in the home. Examples of this include artwork, jewelry, furniture, and antiques that have sentimental value.
Fact # 6: The possibility of re-marriage after a gray divorce presents additional challenges. With people living longer these days, the possibility of getting married again has risen. Seniors who establish new romantic relationships after a divorce have new issues to consider. These include medical issues and estate planning.
For example, sometimes remarrying causes senior newlyweds to be bumped into a higher tax bracket. Some older divorcees considering remarriage seek to protect high-value assets before heading down the aisle. They look to knowledgeable family mediators and attorneys to help them craft prenuptial agreements.
No one should go through a gray divorce alone. A family mediator can help both senior spouses navigate the divorce process as each receives advice from an attorney, protecting their interests and assets during divorce settlement negotiations. Experienced family mediators can help people with divorces, prenuptial agreements, estate planning, and health care decisions.
Lisa Green is a single mother to an opinionated princess, working full-time in office management while also writing articles on divorce law, leadership, job hunting advice, and DIY tips. You can find Lisa on Google+.
For a free consultation about whether family mediation would be helpful for your family, contact Dr. Virginia Colin at mediatorQ@gmail.com or 703.864.2101.