How Grey Divorce Differs from a Typical Divorce
Grey divorce, what is it? The term grey divorce emerged several years ago when research began to show that while the divorce rate in the United States was finally beginning to move below 50 percent, what was slowing this drop was the significant increase in divorces among those with grey hair, that is generally the over 65 years of age group. At present, statistics show couples divorcing after the age of 50 are responsible for one-quarter of divorces overall, and many of these couples are over the age of 65. What does research show are the main reasons for this phenomenon?
- The stigma associated with divorce that was prevalent in the early stages of their marriage no longer prevails, leaving them free from guilt and shame.
- Most grey couples have been married for many years and quite simply have found they no longer enjoy each other and, in many cases, have found someone else they feel happier with.
- By now, their children are grown and on their own, and the term “empty nest” comes into play. Especially for women, when their children are grown, they feel a greater need for attention, and when it is not forthcoming from the spouse, they look for it elsewhere.
- Retirement comes into play at this stage of life for many people, and sometimes there is an extreme difference in how each party wants to spend their remaining years. Too, when a couple retires and spends almost all their time together, unfortunately, differences not noted before may come up, and instead of enjoying being together, they get on each other’s nerves.
- Society now makes divorce seem like such a good idea when a person is tired of their marriage and would just like to try other options.
In many ways, a grey divorce is similar to a divorce of younger couples in that the same legal procedures, rules, and guidelines will apply as the age or length of the marriage doesn’t change any of that. However, there will be some noticeable differences and even complications when an older couple who have experienced a long-term marriage decides to divorce. These can include:
- Dividing marital assets and liabilities (debts) can be very complicated, especially in states like Florida, which is an equitable distribution state, not an equal distribution or community property state. There will usually be many years’ worth of personal items needing to be divided, including beloved pets. The best way to do this is through mediation and the drawing up of a marital agreement. In mediation, the couple gets to decide how their many years of belongings will be divided and who will assume which debts. When the case goes to court, a judge will make those decisions, and since the judge doesn’t know, the couple personally might make decisions that are hurtful.
- Older couples are more likely to have the traditional marriage where the man works to support the family while the wife stays home to raise the children and care for the home and husband. Additionally, it is often the man who handles all the business of the marriage, so the wife will have a lot to learn, and she may even need to work to be able to live independently. For these reasons, alimony becomes a huge issue in a grey divorce. A judge will usually give a monetary value to the wife’s contribution as a homemaker and try to have an alimony judgment adequate enough to help ease the financial burden. However, if the wife (or in some cases the husband but not so much in grey divorces) remarries if the alimony awarded is permanent, that is, for the lifetime of either party, the recipient cannot remarry or cohabitate with a non-relative, or the alimony stops and cannot be reinstated.
- Retirement is frequently an issue in a grey divorce as retirement plans must be divided fairly, and consideration is given to how the couple will manage a two-household lifestyle when their initial plans were to be together in one household. In many instances, a simpler, less expensive lifestyle will be necessary, and many plans for such extras as travel and moving into an upscale home will need to be changed. Sometimes a grey divorce will mean retirement must be put off for a few years as both parties will need to work to make ends meet.
- As a grey divorce often involves a couple with grandchildren, the issue of continuing to be a part of their grandchildren’s life can sometimes be a problem. Adult children may take sides and refuse to let a grandparent see the grandchildren. In many states, grandparents have no rights over the parent, so this can make for a tragic loss.
- Emotionally, a grey divorce, due to the many years of being together, can take a greater toll than a short-term marriage. This is particularly true when one party does not want the divorce and sees their future as few years left to recreate hopes and dreams that for so long have been associated with their spouse of many years.
Grey divorce, like divorce at any age, is often difficult and emotional. There are differences, as was explained, between a grey divorce and a traditional divorce, so it is especially important to find a Family Law attorney who has experience with representing clients through a grey divorce. Most attorneys have a free consultation so you can ask their thoughts and experience on a grey divorce before you settle on who to represent you. It is also a good idea to make sure the attorney sees the value of a successful mediation where you and your spouse can hopefully decide your future before a judge has to do it for you.