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What You Need to Know About 'Gray Divorce'

older married couple on couch, husband facing away, wife on phone

Make sure your rights are protected during this transition.

In Indiana and nationwide, "gray divorce" — that is, splitting up after age 50 — is on the rise. According to divorce experts, there are three main reasons for this trend:

  • Many couples who had children later in life now have an "empty nest" for the first time in their 50s or later.
  • More women are earning income and benefits independent of their husbands, making divorce more economically feasible.
  • People are living longer, so even at mid-life, they may still be looking at 30+ years with the same person — and that may not seem palatable.

If this describes your circumstances, you're not alone. However, divorce after age 50 does present unique circumstances, and you need experienced legal counsel to navigate these waters. Here's what to keep in mind.

Be prepared for your financial situation to change significantly.

Your present and future income may look dramatically different as an older divorcee than in your 20s or 30s. Many people in their 50s are moving into their peak earning years as they take on leadership positions in their fields, so your income may actually be on track to increase. On the other hand, if your skills are less needed in the changing job market, or if you are disabled, close to retirement, or already retired, your future earnings may be significantly less. Therefore, having a realistic assessment of your financial future, retirement accounts, health insurance, and so on is important. You may also need additional documents, such as a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO), to properly divide your retirement assets.

If one spouse is experiencing cognitive decline, divorce gets more complicated.

Unfortunately, when older couples move toward divorce, one or both spouses may also be experiencing age-related decline or other impairments that can affect decision-making. Such impairments can affect whether a separation agreement is acceptable to the court or call other aspects of the divorce into question. You may even need to consider guardianship or conservatorship to address these issues.

Remember, gray divorce is still hard on your adult children.

If your children are grown, and out of the house, it's easy to underestimate just how much their parents' divorce can still affect them. It's also common for parents to be more open and blunt when discussing the divorce with their adult children than they might be with minor children. But as we discussed in our previous blog, your children still need two parents, and that doesn't change when they turn 18. You still need to avoid discussing the reasons for the divorce in detail or disparaging the other parent to your adult children.

Know your options and get effective legal counsel.

Again, gray divorce presents unique challenges compared to divorce earlier in life. That doesn't mean you shouldn't move forward with a divorce or separation if it's what's right for you, but it does mean you need to consider all your options carefully. Remember, divorce is fundamentally about the future, not the past. An experienced divorce attorney can talk through what you want your post-divorce life to look like and protect your rights and interests at every stage of the process.

Divorce is difficult, no matter your age. Move forward with confidence with the right attorney. Schedule your consultation with a divorce lawyer at Hocker Law, LLC today.

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