Special Considerations for Grey Divorce

Grey Divorce Decree

Grey divorce, or elder divorce, is modern day terminology that describes long term married couples over the age of 50 seeking dissolution of marriage.  This “grey divorce” trend is accelerating faster than the average divorce rate, particularly in the State of Florida, where there are many retirees.  Grey divorce can be particularly traumatic, both emotionally and financially, as these couples have spent decades together raising children and/or sharing finances.

Some reasons for seeking a grey divorce, or dissolution of marriage after a long term relationship, include:

  • Years of resentment and unresolved issues regarding a spouse.
  • An unwillingness to divorce before the children were grown. Couples may have stayed together longer for the sake of their children.
  • Deciding to leave a challenging relationship for the positive benefit of improved health and happiness.
  • Long term financial stresses when a couple’s income is low, employment is unstable, or there are periods of unemployment.
  • A disparity between seeking an active aging lifestyle, versus a passive lifestyle. As couples age, this can become a common dispute.
  • Reduced stigma of divorce in today’s society.

There are many complex financial challenges to overcome when long term couples file for dissolution of marriage.  Alimony is usually a court ordered short term payment for support and maintenance while an ex-spouse gets an education or becomes self-supporting; however, in grey divorce, alimony is often a permanent situation, as the spouses are close to retirement or are already retired and the lower earning spouse may be unable to recover financially post-divorce.  On top of that, a life insurance policy may be required to “insure” said alimony, with the amount of the policy meant to cover the duration of the award that the court has ordered.  However, one caveat is the cost of life insurance premiums for older couples, which can be exorbitant and prohibitive.

The termination of health insurance coverage for an ex-spouse is another major challenge in grey divorce, as it is often at a time when their health is deteriorating and health insurance coverage is most needed.  For those receiving social security or retirement benefits, these payments are based on the couple’s lifetime earnings while married.  Therefore, those entitlements may be split equally after divorce. This is a disappointment to the spouse who had higher earnings, and often the income from these payments is not enough to support two people living separately.

To further complicate financial matters in an elder divorce, there may be adult children living at home; however, these children are not eligible for child support payments.  Or a couple may have adult children who live independently but the parents still contribute to them financially.  Some parents may be paying their adult children’s student loans.  Older couples may often be providing financial assistance for their elderly parents.

The division of property can also be difficult, as it can be complicated to separate the marital and premarital debts and assets of a couple that has been together long term.  Examples of grey divorce assets may include second homes and investment properties, retirement accounts, business ownerships, trusts, and long-term care policies.  Estate plans may need to be reviewed and revised accordingly, such as wills, trusts, and beneficiaries.

Elder divorce may have many complex legal issues to consider, but they are not insurmountable.  If you are seeking dissolution of marriage from a long term spouse, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer who is knowledgeable about elder divorce.  The Remsen Family Law Firm can represent your interests in your divorce.  Our law office fully understands the issues of grey divorce, and we are prepared to assist you with the transition and journey to the next phase of your life. Call us at (352) 243-1247.