As the baby boom population ages, there has been an increase in what is being called “Gray Divorce.”
What does that mean exactly? It is when two people 60 or older file for divorce. The number of divorces in this age group has doubled in the last 25 years. Why are people in this age group now divorcing more than in the past? There are many reasons, but one of the most cited reasons is that the children have grown and are out on their own and the couples are finding that the things they had in common early in their marriage no longer exist. Until it was once again just the two of them, they hadn’t realized how far apart they had grown. With people 60 and older living and working longer than ever, the desire to experience other aspects of life can drive people apart.
The marital estates in a Gray Divorce tend to be more varied as parties have had a longer time to accumulate assets. With kids out of the house, finances are biggest issue confronting couples going through divorce after 60. Assets to be divided in a Gray Divorce can include the marital home, investment accounts, retirement assets, trusts, stock rights and can include questions related to Social Security and Medicare benefits. Sometimes parties to a Gray Divorce will have complex estate plans into which they have already moved marital property to be transferred to their children. Sometimes issues of dementia and long-term care may arise.
With few or no working years ahead, the division of the assets can create a high level of stress for both parties, since whatever they get from the marital estate will likely be all they will have to survive on after the divorce is final. The more financially dependent spouse may have concerns related to the ability to become independent. Will they be able to manage their own finances? Will they be able to continue to live a certain lifestyle or will they end up having to struggle to on their own because beginning a new career is unlikely? Being able to quantify pension payouts and required minimum distributions from retirement plans will be especially important in determining how much maintenance the financially dependent spouse may receive. The more financially independent spouse will be concerned about being able to make up the losses from their investment or retirement accounts. In addition, the question of whether to value pension assets or simply split them equally may come into play.
For both parties, these are valid concerns. The assistance of a knowledgeable and trusted family law attorney to help navigate through the process can provide piece of mind.