Gray divorce comes with unique legal, financial, and emotional difficulties. Find out how to prepare for getting a divorce after fifty.
Even though the US divorce rate is one of the highest in the world, it’s been decreasing since the 80’s. One statistical group that has hit that trend is spouses ending their marriages after age fifty. The rate of “gray divorce” in the US has more than doubled between 1990 and 2019. For spouse ages sixty-five and/or older, the rate has roughly tripled in that same time.
The choice to divorce after fifty has instant and lasting impacts on plans of retirement, standards of living, and relationships. If you’re thinking about divorce late in life, it may help to know what to await legally, financially, and emotionally to effortlessly transition into your next chapter.
What Is Gray Divorce?
As the year 2000 came upon people, scaremongers foretold that a computer glitch would take down planes and cause nuclear war as the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999. Fortunately, that did not happen.
The thing no one saw coming at the beginning of the new millennium was a distinctive rise in divorce rates among spouses in their fifties and older. AARP first used the language “gray divorce” to describe this statistical shift in a 2004 report.
You are also going to see language such as diamond-divorces and silver-splitters used to explain the increase in Boomers terminating long-term marriages—when their hair most likely turned gray. This lasting occurrence is sometimes referred to as the “gray divorce revolution.”
Gen X has merged with the over fifty group, but it’s not known yet if they are going to divorce at as high a rate as older people. In a 2021 study, less than fifty percent of the Gen Xers asked noted “marital happiness.” That number might be a sign of things in the future.
Gray Divorce Statistics
How typical is divorce later in life? The general gray divorce rate increased from 4.9 in 1990 to 10.3 in 2017—or from about 5 for every 1,000 people to 10 in a 1,000. In crude numbers, that comes to 344,755 gray divorces in 2017 alone.
Those numbers divulge other details:
The risk for divorce is increased for couples married 10 years or less and those in their second or future marriages.
2/3rds of a gray divorce in an opposing-sex marriage are started by women.
States in the Southern and Western areas of the US have gray divorce rates the highest, with a couple of exceptions.
How Is Gray Divorce Different?
The legal process of divorce is uniform no matter the spouse’s age. But divorcing later in life comes with a unique set of emotional and financial challenges, including the possibility of significantly altering the standard of living of each spouse.
By the time people reach mid-life, they might have made considerable investments in a home and their retirement funds. Dividing those assets can make it a challenge to afford living costs. Additionally, there are less working years remaining to make up the financial shortage.
A 2020 report discovered that gray divorced women and men each saw an instant 50% drop in wealth. Nevertheless, women saw a 45% decline in their quality of life compared to a 21% decrease for men.
Below are some issues that can mold finances following a gray divorce:
- Health insurance premiums could swell for the spouse that loses coverage provided by their spouse’s plan.
- Splitting retirement or pension plans can be convoluted and is not always equal.
- Social Security payments might be less than expected should the marriage last less than ten years.
- Division of assets may be unfair for long-term LGBTQ couples that have been legally married for a shorter period of time.
- Stay-at-home parents might need to find a job following a long gap in employment.
- If spousal support and/or child support are negotiable, think about a life insurance policy for your ex-spouse to safeguard against financial hardship that might come with an premature death.
- For the lesser- or non-wage-earning spouse, it is suggested taking a close look at how marital property might be split.
Health and Welfare
Divorce affects all involved. A 2013 report divulged that the mental and physical health consequences for some men can be significant.
In comparison to their married peers, divorced men are more subject to conditions such as heart disease and cancer. They are additionally more prone to be affected by depression and have a 39% higher suicide occurrence.
Reaching out for help for learning coping skills, or to receive treatment for depression, could bring relief for those who might otherwise suffer silently.
Ex-spouses could end up somewhere in the US and possibly the world—damaging bonds with their adult children. When there’s continual hostility between the exes, the effect can stand in the way of family traditions.
Changes in Lifestyle
As they say, “money changes everything.” So, does a loss of income and savings too. It might be required to downsize a main living space following a gray divorce. Traveling, dining, and entertainment might need to be reduced when maintaining a former lifestyle is no longer feasible.
On the social side, seeking a relationship in the age of dating websites and apps is going to be new to a lot of people. It might be harder to find a new mate for those that live somewhere such as a small Southern town as opposed to in a big city.
Options to Divorce for Older Spouses
When you believe there’s a possibility of saving your marriage—or the emotional and financial damages are too much to take—there are options to gray divorce. Below are some options to think about:
- Marriage coaching or counseling. Finding an experienced professional to help you sort through difficulties could help to strengthen your marriage.
- Open marriages. Agreeing that one or both spouses can seek romantic relationships outside of the marriage works for some spouses. For others, nevertheless, this kind of understanding is too disturbing.
- Legal or trial separation. Being mindful of the variations between the kinds of separation is vital. Separation does not terminate your marriage but can determine financial obligations prior to you making a final decision.
- Separation permanently. Living what amounts to independent lives for keeping benefits and assets untouched is a route many take.
These are only a few of the available options, and all are not a fit for everybody. Marriages are unique, so allow yourself to create an arrangement that can work for your situation. And knowing that going through with a divorce is always an option, and the correct one for some.
How to Prepare for a Gray Divorce
When you’ve decided that divorce is the best choice for you, it could be time to take action. The measures married people need to take when they begin the process are usually similar for all ages.
There are age-associated differences, though. Below are some suggestions for matters often faced by spouses ending their marriage after fifty:
- Speak with a real estate agent to assist you in deciding what you want to do with the family house. Be realistic concerning expenses you might take on to keep it or to put it up for sale.
- Investigate how much your health care premiums are going to cost should you lose coverage. COBRA could be an option but think about Affordable Care Act plans too. When you are close to Medicare beneficiary age, think about looking into supplemental plans.
- Verify your Social Security status and see if you satisfy the ten-year marriage regulation that gives you the right to a portion of your ex’s benefits through specific conditions.
- Realize how a financial settlement is going to impact your taxes—now and when you begin taking allocations from retirement funds.
Each household differs, so you may want to speak with a lawyer or divorce financial analyst to determine any additional planning you need to make.
Gray Divorce Mediation
Gray divorces do not inevitably have to end up in a trial. There are DIY alternatives, but long-term married spouse are usually not the best ones for DIY since they tend to have more complicated financial matters to work out.
Still, there are possibilities to reduce the cost, strain, and time that it could take to seek a conventional, contested divorce. Mediation is a good choice for spouses that can work together and could possibly get on the same page—with assistance from a trained, unbiased professional.
Mediators could also be lawyers, but they do not have to be. A lot come from other occupations, including family counselors and divorce financial analysts. They meet with spouses to aid them creating a divorce settlement agreement. That then usually becomes part of your divorce judgment.
Many spouses use mediation prior to them filing for divorce. When they’re able to come to a settlement throughout the process, they might benefit from the benefits of an uncontested divorce. Other spouses take the more conventional approach when they begin the divorce process (typically with each spouse represented by their own lawyer) and later have a settlement negotiated with the assistance of their mediators, lawyers, or both.
Take time to learn more concerning the differences between mediated and contested divorce prior to progressing.
Life Following Gray Divorce
The possibility of starting over in your fifties or beyond can be disturbing. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t going find joy in the following chapter of your life.
A University of North Carolina report on later-life divorces and life satisfaction determined aspects that contribute to enjoyment. The most considerable predictors of satisfaction were:
- close relations to adult children, particularly for women, and a
- a new-found romantic relationship or partner.
Those things might take time or don’t apply to you. So, what are other ways to start the best life achievable following a gray divorce?
Popular belief says that beginning new hobbies, going to the gym, or going on a bucket list trip can speed post-breakup recovery. Whereas those activities may help, Dr. Meunier thinks that your actions prior to the divorce being final have the most to do with how you cope in the future.
If that’s not a choice in your situation, ask for aid when you need it. It doesn’t matter if you get it from relatives, friends, professionals, or support groups, just understand that you don’t have to go it by yourself.
Nell Gladson, L. C. M. (2022, May 12). Gray divorce: The Essential Guide to ending a marriage after 50. www.divorcenet.com. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.divorcenet.com/resources/divorce/gray-divorce-after-50.htm
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