The perils of “gray” divorce

Roughly half of all first-time marriages in America will end in divorce. The divorce rate has stayed about the same for several years now, but one key demographic - couples over the age of 50 - are divorcing at an alarming rate. Pew Research reports that the number of so-called "gray" divorces has more than doubled since the 1990s. In fact, the older the couples get, the higher the rate; marriages of people over 65 are ending at triple their previous rate. These statistics tell the sad truth: couples who have been married for 20, 30, 40 years or more are now splitting up at a record pace.

The reasons for the rise in older couples getting divorced are varied, but many legal and family experts attribute much of it to longer life spans, widespread economic stability and an increased societal focus on personal satisfaction. Couples who have been together for decades may realize they have drifted apart. They may be unwilling to face the prospect of retirement alongside someone with whom they no longer share common interests and goals. In addition, they have the financial freedom after a life's worth of work to end things if they choose.

Unique considerations for older couples who split

One of the key factors in a gray divorce - and one that has less of an immediate impact on the dissolution of a younger couple - is the issue of pensions and retirement. Whereas a couple in their 20s or 30s will have decades before retirement to build back up the coffers, people in their 50s, 60s or 70s are likely already retired or anticipating that it will happen shortly.

This means that when retirements funds are divided as part of a divorce property settlement each person may end up with an insufficient amount because of the added costs of:

  • Maintaining two separate households (including rent/mortgage, utilities, routine maintenance/repairs and more)
  • Needing more than one vehicle
  • Purchasing individual health insurance
  • Covering medical expenses
  • Needing long-term in-home or residential care for chronic or terminal conditions

Are you considering divorce?

If you are considering divorce, keep in mind that there are some unique considerations when a divorce is filed after, say, 30 years instead of after only a few. There may not be custody determinations to be made, but assets are more commingled, alimony is more likely to be an issue, and property issues are more complicated.

Experienced divorce attorneys - like those at the Gettysburg law offices of Wolfe, Rice and Quinn, LLC - who have handled cases involving older couples, can guide you through the process and help you minimize potential negative consequences. Call the firm today at 717-253-9182 or send an email to schedule a consultation.