Factors to Consider with Gray Divorce


Since U.S. divorce rates peaked in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they’ve been steadily declining despite the massive increase in divorce for people over 50. Also known as “gray divorce,” a study by Bowling Green State University (BGSU) sociologists Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin found that the divorce rate for people 50 and older more than doubled from 1990 to 2010. Among other things, they found that 55% of gray divorces are between couples who were married for more than 20 years.

The research was reportedly started in response to the public separation of Al and Tipper Gore in 2010. The pair broke up, but remained married, after 40 years of marriage.

Why Would This Happen?

With any divorce, one of the first questions asked to the former couple is, “Why?” With gray divorces, the factors may be different from what might cause a younger couple to separate, but the most common reason has to do with grown up children.

After spending the majority of a marriage birthing, nurturing, and raising their children, couples may find themselves at a seemingly empty dinner table once they permanently leave the house for college or work. After giving so much of themselves to raising their children, the couple may find that there isn’t enough left to keep them together and happy when their house is empty.

Your Financial Situation

Because divorce can be messy if you go into it unprepared, it’s important to plan ahead, at least to understand the basics of what to expect. If you or your spouse has ever considered joining the growing community of gray divorcees, the most important factor to consider, after your personal and emotional well-being, is your financial situation.

  • Pension: A pension earned during marriage is usually considered the property of both spouses, so getting a divorce would mean it will be divided in half, along with the rest of your finances.
  • Retirement Savings: Any retirement savings you and your spouse worked to grow during your adult working life will now be divided in order to support two households, rather than the one it was meant for before. That can include any individual retirement accounts (IRAs) you or your spouse set up to benefit the whole family.

Keeping Yourself Healthy

As you age, those finances will be necessary to ensure you receive top-notch care.

  • Healthcare: Chances are, one spouse’s healthcare plan covers both, and that will end with divorce.
  • Caregiving: Without a spouse to either care for or have care for you, there may come a time when assistance is necessary. The divided finances now need to cover assistance for two households, something that may be financially taxing.
  • Your Children: Even with grown children, their parents divorcing can cause an emotional strain, and may end with them inadvertently choosing sides. Children often help take care of their parents as they reach their golden years. At the very least, their emotional support is important in transitioning to a single life.

What Happens After?

If you decide to follow through on your gray divorce, there are ways to make your new life as comfortable as possible. Things like waiting to officially file for a divorce through the next tax period after you sell your house to take advantage of the double exemption on capital gains tax, or keeping your current life insurance policies, rather than cashing out early or letting them lapse could provide a financial boost in your new single life.

Divorce can be complicated, so hiring a divorce attorney to help with the details could go a long way in making the process easier. Here at Robert Sparks Attorneys, we provide clients in the Tampa, FL area with top-notch legal advice and guidance.

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