couple sitting on couch looking disappointed at each other

Sometimes, even the longest-lasting of married couples must call it quits one day. Gray Divorces (also known as a diamond divorce or a silver splitter) involve older married couples, over the age of 50, wanting to get a divorce. They include “gray” in the name because, typically, the parties involved have gray hair. They are a type of divorce that is not commonly thought of but is currently on the rise in the United States. Late-in-life gray divorces are usually more convoluted, as lifelong marriages have lifelong decisions to make about their divorce. In the United States, we have recently seen younger couples getting fewer divorces from 1990 to 2015. Within the same 25-year time frame, divorces of people aged 50 and higher have roughly doubled, while the divorce rates for ages 65 and higher have nearly tripled.1 During the young adulthood of baby boomers, they saw an unprecedented number of divorces. This marriage instability early in life is a significant factor in the rise of gray divorces today, as remarriages tend to be less stable than first marriages. A gray divorce could be the single most challenging thing you may come across in your life, and you and your partner may feel it is inevitable. When a trusted relationship goes wrong, you might be confused about what to do next. The Law Office of Mark. D Nelson in Gig Harbor, WA, is happy to offer help in any gray divorce you are going through. We want to help you pinpoint priorities to ensure stability after your gray divorce. Late-in-life separation is difficult to go through, especially if you have been with your partner for decades. The later you wait, the more potential there is for you to prematurely spread your retirement funds thin. This is not optimal as you have nearly no time to recover financially after a gray divorce. Changing retirement plans is, unfortunately, a standard action for parties after a gray divorce.

Why is late-life divorce on the rise?

Multiple factors point to why older married couples choose to get separated later in life. Not all these factors are involved, as every divorce has its exclusive set of circumstances. Children: Couples that had children may think to postpone their divorce until a child is grown up or has moved out. Parents realize the risk a divorce can put on a small child and want to mitigate as much stress as possible for their children. Empty House: Once a couple’s children grow up and move out of their home, they may conclude that they are no longer compatible with their interests after years of child upbringing. Unsuccessful Remarriages: As stated slightly before, remarriages among the Baby Boomer generation are not very stable. If you are over the age of 50 and are going into your 2nd marriage or more, you are twice as likely to have a divorce. Financial Reasons: Some married couples will agree to stay together and ride things out until they become more financially stable. Depending on the couple and when they choose to do this, it could easily last until they require a gray divorce.

Unique Gray Divorce Issues

When it comes to a gray divorce, there are some unique issues you will run into that a typical divorce does not. Some of the things to consider in a gray divorce are: Retirement – Having a gray divorce so close to your retirement is not optimal. After dividing funds, you may realize that your post-work life may not go how it was originally planned. You might need to delay your retirement, retire with a new plan, or readjust your savings. Division of Assets – A later-in-life divorce can have a more complex division of assets, as long marriages usually involve more significant assets acquired throughout life. Unique things may be considered for this, such as the length of the marriage and how close each spouse is to retirement. Social Security – While the court cannot divide Social Security or retirement benefits, it is still important to consider what a gray divorce could do to your Social Security benefits. Many people going through a gray divorce are eligible for retirement benefits based on their spouse’s earning history. Insurance – Due to the nature of a gray divorce, you may run into a few concerns regarding health and life insurance. Can you afford insurance after your gray divorce? You may have been on your spouse’s health insurance for your whole marriage. If you qualified for your spouse’s Social Security benefits, you might also be eligible for Medicare. Income & Alimony – When a long-term marriage comes to an end, there are many questions surrounded income afterward. You might have to rejoin the workforce, split a fixed income if you are retired, or start receiving alimony (also known as spousal support). As you can see, a gray divorce comes with issues only unique to them as they involve married couples over the age of 50. Some other issues that unfortunately need to be brought up include any long-term considerations and issues related to client competency. Long Term Considerations – Some things that must be brought up are long-term care, final wishes, medical care, and updating estate plans. Issues like these are best solved earlier, and a gray divorce is a perfect opportunity to get those tasks done and out of the way. Competency – Due to the nature of older couples, the issue of client competency is severe and should be considered. As people get older, it’s no surprise that many health factors can decrease one’s competency. If a person is found not competent, a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) could be considered to assist during a gray divorce. An important thing to keep in mind about Washington State is that a marital estate is not guaranteed to be divided evenly. The court prioritizes an equitable and fair division of a couple’s property, assets, and debts. In a relationship, if you can earn more money, you will inherit more of the community debt. Many factors could impact this, and every couple’s situation is a unique experience where results may vary. In most cases of dray divorce, custody of children is usually not relevant as the age of the parties will more than likely include children over 18. This does not mean that your adult children will not be involved in the gray divorce process. Many parties will try to have children side with them, but you may choose to have them involved in estate planning and postnuptial agreements to avoid this kind of conflict. We also require someone to represent a party in case of any competency concerns, which could be your adult child. Another thing to consider in the future after your gray divorce is whether you plan on getting married again. A gray divorce is something that will impact everyone from a past marriage to future marriage. Getting married after a gray divorce could impact your marriage estate. This includes your post-work life, social security benefits, and pensions. One thing you could consider doing is getting a prenuptial agreement instead of a postnuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is signed before a marriage, and a postnuptial agreement is signed after marriage. Both documents are used to determine a couple’s affairs and assets in the event of a future separation or divorce. Choosing a lawyer is not a simple task, especially when it comes to a gray divorce and the special circumstances that it can bring up. The Law Office of Mark D. Nelson, PLLC strives to make their client’s lives as easy and smooth as possible as they go through a troubling gray divorce. Once you agree on a division of assets, it is extremely difficult to reverse that. Having a proper attorney to inform you about your rights regarding your share in a gray divorce is essential. Even if you and your partner agree on most things, like the division of assets, it is important to recognize what you have the rights to. Later-in-life separation can be challenging and can drain you emotionally. For others, it might be a fresh breath of air to live a more empowering life where they are in control. No matter which situation you are in, the Law Office of Mark D. Nelson, PLLC wants to assist with your gray divorce. Call us today and let us guide you through the first steps of getting a gray divorce. Our Gig Harbor law firm specializes in high-conflict divorce and legal separation. Whether you are thinking about initiating or are already deep into the process, we want to help you out! Everyone deserves a breath of fresh air if their current marriage does not work out, even if it is a late-in-life divorce.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided above is intended to be a general discussion of common mediation issues. It is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice that applies to your individual fact situation. Always seek legal counsel for advice on your own unique case needs.