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Gray Divorce: Splitting After 50

Pearson Butler

Also called “diamond divorce,” or “silver splitters divorce,” the term gray divorce refers to couples who get divorced in or after their 50s. The term, unsurprisingly, comes from this demographic’s hair color. It also reflects a surprising demographic trend. Since 1990, the divorce rate for couples aged 50 and older has doubled. Meanwhile, the overall divorce rate is at a 40-year low.

Longer Lifespans

The primary driving factor behind gray divorce is that, on average, Americans are living longer. According to Charles Schwab, most people in the United States live until age 82, which is about 20 years past the typical point of retirement. Historically, elderly people only spent 10 or 15 years in retirement, and their quality of life was much lower – usually spent caring for an ailing spouse, attending to health concerns, or living in a nursing home. The amount of time older adults spend in nursing homes has decreased from 10 to 2.4 years, reflecting a new way of life for seniors. Healthier lifestyles and medical advances have increased the positivity and possibility of later life for many adults, so the last thing they want is to be limited by an unhappy marriage.

Financial Realities

When couples have money constantly flowing in, they can overlook issues like overspending and debt. Once their salaries stop coming in, however, the consequences of poor financial management come to light. Living off retirement savings or fixed incomes alone, one partner’s overspending can become a constant problem – leading to debts, fights, and even divorce.

Empty Nests

Women are having kids later in life, which means couples are experiencing “empty nests” at a more advanced age. Like younger couples before them, “silver splitters” may have spent their lives raising children and experience a lack of common purpose once their children leave home. Instead of answering the question “What’s next?” with a partner who has become a stranger, many couples opt for divorce.

Sex and Infidelity

As with any other relationship or marriage, a difference in sex drive can pose a huge problem. When people age, their relationship to sex and sexuality may change, sometimes drastically. This change can cause frustration in one partner and ultimately lead to divorce. Additionally, cheating seems to have lost much of its stigma. Dating sites like Ashley Madison set up affairs for married individuals, and older men and women may seek a younger partner for reinvention or renewed attraction. If one partner prefers to be monogamous, infidelity may be grounds for divorce.

Getting Through a Gray Divorce

Any break-up or divorce can be difficult, but gray divorces present unique challenges. The Council on Contemporary Families (CCF) has found that older adults are “unlikely to recoup financial losses associated with divorce.” This is especially true for women who took time off to raise children during the marriage.

As with any divorce, gray divorce can affect family stability. Adult children may struggle with a suddenly split home or be caught in feuds between their parents. The division of assets and property can be difficult as well. Life insurance policies, Social Security benefits, investments, retirement benefits, and inheritances and trusts are components that must be taken into consideration with a diamond divorce.

Because gray divorces are so complex, it is important to hire the right attorney. If the split is mutual and both parties wish to figure out their parting with as little financial and legal trouble as possible, mediation may be the best solution. If the divorce is more hostile, it is important to have someone who will fight to protect your assets and future.

At Pearson Butler, we have both aggressive divorce attorneys and understanding mediation lawyers that can help you get through your gray divorce. To discuss your concerns and find the right solution, call us at (800) 265-2314 and schedule a consultation.

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Gray Divorce: Splitting After 50

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