What is gray divorce? Formerly, it was defined as a divorce after 40 or more years of marriage. These days, it refers to any divorce case in which the spouses are at least 50 years old. If you and our spouse are over 50, you may no longer feel constrained to stay in a marriage you’ve both outgrown. If that’s the case, come see us at Ballinger Law Firm to craft a bright, fresh start for your new life.
Between 1994 and 2019, the rate of divorce for U.S. couples in general dropped. However, for married partners who are at least 50 years old, the rate has increased. In fact, in those 25 years, the rate of gray divorce more than doubled.
Right now, experts estimate that 25% of all couples in the U.S. who are currently engaged in divorce litigation are over 50. What’s more, over half of all gray divorces in this country presently involve marriages that lasted 20 or more years.
Why are the gray divorce numbers rising? There are likely a number of factors at work. One is that divorce in general doesn’t generate the societal stigma of days gone by. Another is that, having made more strides in the workplace and after fighting for pay parity, women are no longer dependent on their spouses for support.
Another possible factor is that people of all ages tend to be less willing to tolerate an unfulfilling relationship that causes stress and anger. Couples may have once tolerated serious issues that generated anger, frustration and grief simply because “that’s the way it is.” Today, both men and women may instead decide that a divorce is the better option.
Finally, when couples have been together for a long period of time, they often feel that they’ve truly grown apart over the years. Because children are less likely to be an issue, having grown up and left the home, there’s less pressure to stay in an unhappy marriage.
Divorcing later in life can raise a number of special concerns and considerations that you should keep in mind.
One of the biggest concerns for older partners who want to terminate a marital relationship is the preservation and fair allocation of marital assets. In gray divorces, the parties have had a much longer period of time to accumulate property and wealth. At the same time, they’re closer to retirement age, so it’s important to ensure your future financial needs are adequately protected.
A divorce attorney who is experienced in gray divorce litigation can help guide you through these tricky issues so that you can make your fresh start as positive and comfortable as possible.
When partners who are near retirement age decide to divorce, the case may often involve the division of substantial retirement accounts. Retirement assets accumulated during the marriage are marital assets regardless of who “owns” the account. An experienced attorney is essential for ensuring that a fair and equitable division of those assets occurs.
Additionally, gray divorce cases may often implicate more complex situations such as a family business, multiple retirement accounts per person, two or more homes or rental properties, and alimony for spouses who did not work outside the home. These issues may require the association of specialized experts, such as forensic accountants to identify and help recover commingled or hidden assets and business valuation experts to help ensure a fair assessment of the business’s worth.
Gray divorces are often more complicated than other divorces. Attorney Beverly K. Ballinger has over 30 years of experience representing people in the Charleston and Mount Pleasant areas of South Carolina.
Whether your case requires immediate court orders to protect your assets and legal interests or can be resolved with a simple mediation, the Ballinger Law Firm team can help make the process of separating financial assets, real and personal property, and establishing future support simpler and smoother.