Divorce rates overall for Americans are lower than they were five years ago. However, the number of people over the age of 50 who are splitting up is on the rise. This is referenced as Gray Divorce, which is a term referring to the demographic trend of an increasing divorce rate for older (“Gray-haired”) couples in long-lasting marriages.
Divorce can be a traumatic event at any age, but these “Gray divorces” can take a significant financial toll, especially for women. In some cases, married women may have been out of the workforce, and even if they do work, statistically women earn less than men. Additionally, women usually live longer than men, which can mean they need to have enough money to support themselves for a longer span of time.
Some factors that may play into an increase in divorces for couples that have been together for 30, 40 or even 50 years are generational. The “gray” generation statistically got married younger, had children early on and did not cohabitate before being married. This is opposed to current trends where couples now commonly live together beforehand, get married later in life and wait longer to have children.
Society rightfully puts a value on personal happiness and fulfillment and not just for those still lacking experience. Individuals 50 and older are just as devoted to living happy fulfilling lives as their younger counterparts. People are living quite a few years longer and those extra years can be playing a role in the reason more long-term marriages may end in divorce.
By nature, humans change with time and can grow apart. It may be a cliché but what someone wants out of life when they married at 25 may be different by the time they are 55. They may feel they have become strangers or roommates who have little in common, more so when they are empty nesters but the desire to feel an emotional bond with a life partner has motivated many to divorce their spouse later in life.
While the issues addressed in a divorce are generally common, those who legally separate in their golden years face different issues specific to their stage in life.
Long-term marriages almost always result in alimony if the parties’ earnings show disparities in income
Unlike younger couples with shorter marriages that often result in temporary alimony awards, courts look at long-term marriages differently. While the amount of the award may vary based on the state in which the divorce proceeding occurs, senior couples who have significant earning disparity between them. can expect alimony in the divorce decree.
Retirement funds will likely be split
Even if one of the spouses is considered at-fault for the divorce (which would not matter in a no-fault state such as Nevada), retirement accounts are up for grabs and will likely be split evenly between the spouses.
Keep the house, give up other things
Women often opt to keep the marital home after a divorce, and this is possible, but it should be understood that the husband will receive another asset in order to balance out the equitable distribution of marital property. There are some cases where the value of the home is so substantial that it has to be sold since an award to one person of the home would end up with an unequal division to the other party, which is not allowed under community property laws except with the consent of both parties.
Older kids, same difficult transition
While Gray divorces often do not result in child custody issues due to the age of the kids, this does not mean that the effect of the split will not change relationships within the family dynamic.
Seeing the grandchildren
Grandparents may be awarded visitation rights by a court if it believes contact would be in the best interest of the child, subject to several conditions.
Social Security benefits cannot be divided by a court. Social security benefits arise out of federal law, and cannot be divided by a state court.
For more on Gray Divorce, contact Petroni Law Group at 420-4221.