Grey divorce can raise unique issues and financial challenges

Knowledgeable advice and guidance from an experienced family attorney can help you understand your situation, set priorities and plan for a happy future.

Divorce after 50 can be a much different experience than ending a marriage when you are younger. The kids are grown and out of the nest, causing spouses to ask what comes next as a couple and sometimes the answer is dissolving the marriage. This phenomenon has been dubbed "grey divorce" and is on the rise, while divorces in other age groups are declining.

Why is older divorce growing?

People have many theories about why this is happening. Baby boomers do not face the same societal pressures to stay together no matter what. Couples who did so for the kids no longer have that pull. More acceptance that it is okay to do what you need to be happy and fulfilled may be another factor. Or, couples just may grow apart or fall out of love over many years as each matures.

Forbes flags the issues of financial incompatibility or mismanagement, addiction and infidelity as prominent in grey divorces. The Internet has enabled those attracted by gambling, gaming, dating sites or porn. These as well as traditional behavioral excesses involving alcohol, drugs or shopping can break a relationship already on thin ice.

Financial concerns

Most older divorces are focused on the financial futures of the spouses. Retirement planning that anticipated one household now must support two and often people do not want to or cannot work. They may even already be retired. Wives may have taken years off work to raise children and have no idea how to restart a career at an older age.

Realistically, many people facing gray divorce must lower their standard of living as single persons, which is no small thing and can be difficult emotionally. Living apart may mean giving up vacations and other perks of a shared household.

Questions that come up in negotiating a settlement in such cases or at trial, if no agreement can be reached:

  • What about alimony? Texas law is quite stringent about allowing spousal support as compared with that of other states. If it is granted, it is usually short term, but a family law attorney can provide advice about this.
  • Splitting retirement accounts like pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs and others can be complex and a source of conflict. It may require professional financial advice to correctly project future growth and valuation. Your lawyer must carefully draft or review a proposed QDRO or qualified domestic relations order that the court will issue directing trustees and other fiduciaries associated with these accounts on how to divide the proceeds between the spouses.
  • Should the marital home be sold? It may be expensive to maintain, pay taxes on and insure. What about other real estate? Each party must consider where they want to live and the type of residence that makes sense as well as associated financial ramifications.
  • Health insurance and long-term care insurance is likely to be a major expense for each going forward. Two individual medical policies will probably be more expensive than the family policy was. What role will Medicare and Medicaid play and must asset limits be considered if nursing home care may be necessary? Is long-term care insurance an option for either or both?
  • Does one spouse have health or disability issues with associated expenses beyond what may be covered by health or long-term care insurance?
  • Social security retirement benefits can add another complication. Future benefits can be estimated through the agency, but in marriages longer than a decade, one spouse may be able to take at a different level through the other divorced spouse's work record.

Having legal counsel on your side with experience in these unique issues of gray divorce can make all the difference in navigating negotiations or court proceedings with the goal of future financial security in a divorce in later years.