Challenges of a Gray Divorce

January 27, 2022

Gray Divorce

Divorce rates among couples aged 50 or older are higher than ever before. However, divorcing after a long-term marriage can be both emotionally and financially challenging, which is why couples seeking a gray divorce need to consider a wide range of factors. At Johnson Law Group, we assist people in pursuing a late-in-life divorce after years of marriage. We are aware of the challenges of a gray divorce and are prepared to help couples tackle those challenges. Call (720) 463-4333 to schedule a case review and discuss the difficulties that may arise when ending a long-term marriage.

What Is a Gray Divorce?

The term “gray divorce,” which was popularized by a study published in the AARP in 2004, refers to divorces involving spouses aged 50 or older. A gray divorce is also referred to as a silver splitter and late-in-life divorce. The number of divorces among older couples has been on the rise in recent years, and it is no longer taboo to end a long-term marriage even after spouses are over the age of 50.

How Common Are Gray Divorces in the United States?

According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 10 out of 1,000 couples over the age of 50 pursued a divorce after years of marriage. The divorce rate has nearly doubled since the 1990s. The increase in the divorce rate for couples aged 65 or older was even higher.

Reasons for Gray Divorce

The ever-growing number of gray divorces is attributed to many reasons. Some of the most common causes of higher divorce rates for couples aged 50 and older include higher life expectancy, financial independence of both spouses and the elimination of stigma associated with ending a marriage later in life. Reasons for gray divorce also include:

  • Empty nest. In most marriages, couples spend a significant portion of the marriage raising their kids. However, after children grow up and start living on their own, their parents may find themselves feeling lonely. For this reason, an empty nest contributes to many divorces among older couples because spouses may eventually grow apart due to the lack of shared goals and aspirations.
  • Disputes regarding financial management. When spouses have different opinions regarding the management of their finances, arguments are likely to arise. When such disputes persist for years, spouses may end up filing for divorce. The financial independence of both spouses may make it easier for them to split up.
  • Drifting apart. Many spouses keep growing apart after years of marriage. When an older couple feels that there is no longer a spark between them and spouses become distant from each other, they are likely to file for divorce.
  • Change in lifestyle. Older couples may notice that their lifestyles are different, especially after retirement. If one spouse retires and wants to travel around the world while the other spouse wants to stay at home, they are likely to grow apart because of different interests.
  • Longer life expectancy. With comprehensive healthcare, life expectancy is much higher in the United States. As life spans have increased, spouses over the age of 50 still have plenty of time to explore the world if they make the decision to divorce.

At Johnson Law Group, our divorce attorneys help individuals and advise them throughout the divorce process regardless of age. We help clients of all ages navigate complicated family law and divorce issues.

What Are the Challenges of a Gray Divorce?

No two marriages are alike, which is why a gray divorce always involves a unique set of circumstances. However, getting a divorce when you are 50 or older may be more complicated than for younger individuals. There are quite a few things to consider when considering ending a marriage later in life. The following are some of the most common challenges that spouses over the age of 50 may encounter when ending their marriage:

  • Determining alimony. When spouses are retired, determining alimony can become problematic. In most cases, a court will determine the amount and duration of alimony based on the individual’s retirement income, not their pre-retirement income.
  • Dividing marital property. The vast majority of states divide a divorcing couple’s marital property under the rule called “equitable distribution.” Colorado is one of those states. The concept of equitable distribution requires courts to divide marital property in a fair and equitable manner. However, determining what is and is not marital or separate property becomes more difficult after years of marriage.
  • Splitting inheritance. Under the equitable distribution law, inheritance is considered the separate property of the spouse who inherited the property. For this reason, inheritance cannot be divided between the spouses. However, inherited property often becomes commingled and may turn into marital property over the course of a long-term marriage.
  • Determining Social Security. Older couples need to consider the potential impact of divorce on their Social Security benefits. Many married individuals rely on Social Security benefits, which is why they need to understand the potential consequences of a gray divorce and remarriage.
  • Dividing pension plans and retirement accounts. For many people, retirement savings are their largest and most valuable assets. However, dividing retirement accounts and pension plans can become challenging, especially after years of marriage. In order to divide pension plans, a court will have to determine the contributions individuals made to their pension plans before and after the marriage.

Getting a divorce is always difficult, but even more so when married spouses are over the age of 50. Ending a long-term marriage can be a life-altering event, which is why spouses need to protect themselves and understand their legal rights and options to make an informed decision about divorce.

Divorce Attorneys at Johnson Law Group

Our skilled divorce attorneys at Johnson Law Group handle all types of divorces, including gray divorces. Seeking a gray divorce is often more complicated than ending a marriage for younger couples. Couples over the age of 50 often have more at stake than younger people, which is why they need to be aware of all the hurdles of a gray divorce and know how to tackle them. Call (720) 463-4333 to discuss your unique situation with our experienced attorneys.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
Our experience, dedication to Colorado families, and our success in each case we represent sets us apart from the competition. We are passionate about family and estate law. Our highly-qualified team will work tirelessly to achieve the best possible results in your case.


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