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Are there special issues to consider in a gray divorce?

Although divorce can happen at any age, a recent report indicates that the risk of gray divorce, for couples over age 50, is not evenly distributed.

According to a 2016 research paper form the National Center for Family & Marriage Research, empty nest syndrome is not a triggering factor in gray divorces. The research also ruled out chronic illness and retirement as factors. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it seems that gray divorces are protected by values common to any age group: marital quality and economic security.

Granted, a gray divorce generally does not involve child support or custody discussions. According to a recent article, nearly one-third of gray divorces involve couples that have been married over 30 years. Any children from the marriage are usually college-age or older.

Nevertheless, there are other issues unique to gray divorces that may require the assistance of an experienced family law firm. For starters, such marriages often involve sizable anticipated retirement benefits. A qualified domestic relations order, or court order, is one way to separate assets. The QDRO provides specific instructions to the administrator of a retirement plan.

Discussions of alimony, or spousal support, also take on unique dimensions in a gray divorce. In general, a court considers various factors when determining spousal support awards, including the length of the marriage, the quality of life during the marriage, and each spouse’s prospective earning ability. However, the court is not obligated to weigh each factor equally, and a spouse who has been out of the workforce for 30 years might not have viable prospects of reentering the workforce. Our family law firm has helped divorcing couples both young and old navigate these complexities.

Source: IFS, “Who is at Risk for a Gray Divorce? It Depends,” Naomi Cahn, May 1, 2017

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