Special Issues For “Gray Divorce”

by McConnell Family Law

Gray Divorce

Over the past decade, divorce rates have trended downward across all age groups, with one exception: those age 55 and over. The number of “gray divorces” has increased significantly in recent years.

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, more of them are choosing to divorce. Some of them have been married to the same person for 30 years or more. Others are on their second or third marriages. Either way, millions of 55+-ers are deciding they do not want to spend the next phase of their lives with their current spouse – or they are finding out their spouse feels this way.  In some cases, both spouses fall out of love or have grown too far apart during the years of raising children and building careers.  No matter what the reason, people facing gray divorce have unique issues and concerns that must be fully addressed.  

In this blog, we are highlighting our New Canaan office, which is one of our five convenient locations. Navigating the unique challenges of gray divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging journey. At McConnell Family Law Group, our skilled New Canaan divorce lawyers can provide legal guidance and strategic counsel to protect your interests. We can help address the special issues that arise when couples decide to part ways later in life. Contact us at (203) 344-7007 for compassionate and experienced legal assistance.

Divorce Later In Life

Approximately half of all marriages in the United States eventually result in divorce or separation. However, while the divorce rate has gone down for other age ranges, a specific demographic is currently experiencing an increase in divorce rates. This comprises individuals aged 50 and above, commonly referred to as the “gray divorce” group.

Gray divorces may have certain common causes with divorces among younger couples, such as issues like addiction, abuse, or infidelity. However, there are distinct factors that affect couples who have dedicated a significant part of their lives to each other. When older couples decide to pursue a gray divorce, their reasons often encompass:

  • Empty Nest Syndrome: Many couples focus on raising their children and neglect their own relationship. When kids eventually leave home, adapting to an empty nest can strain their marriage, possibly resulting in divorce later on.
  • Financial Disagreements: Financial conflicts are a common trigger for gray divorces, as older couples tend to have more wealth. Disagreements over investments, budgeting, or retirement funds often create tension in relationships and lead to gray divorces.
  • Pursuit of a Happier Life: In the past, people often stayed in unhappy marriages, but now, people find happiness in life through hobbies, activities and careers, making it more achievable for them to embrace life after divorce.
  • Individual Growth: As people age, they change personally, developing new interests and priorities. When these changes don’t align with their partner’s, maintaining the connection can be challenging.
  • Intimacy Issues: A lack of intimacy, whether emotional or physical, frequently serves as a leading indicator of divorce within a marriage.
  • Lack of Spontaneity: Over the course of a lengthy marriage, some older couples may settle into a routine. This can cause a relationship to feel stagnant, leading one or both partners to consider the possibility of divorce.

Navigating the complexities of divorce later in life requires experienced legal guidance and support. At McConnell Family Law Group, our dedicated New Canaan divorce lawyers can provide the support you need in this challenging journey.

Special Issues in Gray Divorces

There are special issues in gray divorces that are very different from divorce at earlier stages in life.  To make things easier in gray divorce, the children are usually grown and living on their own.  There can be issues regarding adult children of divorce, but child custody and child support are not likely to be factors in a gray divorce.  

On the other hand, there are important issues affecting gray divorce that can be extremely complex.  Property division can be a complicated process.  You and your spouse have likely accumulated significant assets: a house; a second home; retirement accounts; and, valuable personal property like jewelry or antiques. One or both of you might have an interest in a business. Sometimes couples in gray divorces may have significant debt.  Debt division can be more difficult than dividing assets.   There are also considerations of health insurance coverage, Social Security, long-term care, and inheritances.  One spouse may now have to pay for health insurance which can be an overwhelming expense for those over 55.  One spouse may be ill.   There may be an age difference between the spouses such that one spouse may be continuing to work while the other may be retired.    

The division of retirement accounts can be an especially tricky issue. If you and your spouse are not yet old enough to withdraw funds from your IRA or 401(k), there may be an exception to the usual 10% penalty for early withdrawal when the retirement funds are transferred in a divorce.  However, there may still be tax consequences and other asset-balancing issues to consider. If one or both spouses have a pension, there are additional issues.  In short, all retirement assets are NOT the same.   Particularly in gray divorces, it is extremely important to understand your retirement accounts and make the best possible decision regarding division.

Special Issues in Gray Divorces Key Considerations
Property Division Complex process due to significant assets, real estate, retirement accounts, personal property, and potential business interests.
Debt Division Can be challenging, especially when dealing with significant debts accumulated during the marriage.
Health Insurance Coverage Considerations for health insurance expenses, which can be overwhelming for individuals over 55.
Social Security Understanding the impact of divorce on Social Security benefits and planning accordingly.
Long-Term Care Preparing for potential long-term care needs and associated costs.
Inheritances Addressing the treatment of inheritances in the divorce settlement.
Age Differences and Retirement Managing situations where one spouse continues to work while the other is retired, considering age disparities.
Retirement Account Division Complexities related to dividing retirement accounts, including IRAs, 401(k)s, and pensions.
Financial Planning and Expertise Seeking assistance from therapists, CPAs, and financial planners with expertise in divorce-related financial matters.

Mistakes Can Be Costly

If you are facing a gray divorce, getting your “fair share” of the marital property is critical. You need a solid financial base from which you can enjoy this phase of your life and retirement on your best terms.  We maintain relationships with therapists, CPAs, and financial planners that have particular experience and expertise in matters surrounding divorce.

The attorneys at McConnell Family Law Group are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in representing 55+ clients and fully understand the unique issues involved in gray divorce. Contact our firm today at (203) 344-7007 so that we can help you Find Peace Through Strength!

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