Observers have noticed a new divorce phenomenon in recent years: the rise in gray divorce. An article in Kiplinger explains that “gray divorce” represents the nickname given to divorces wherein at least one of the spouses is 50+ years old. Statistics bear out the fact that most of these divorcing couples maintained — or endured, as the case may be — marriages of over 20 years prior to divorce.
Today, gray divorces account for about 25% of all U.S. divorces. Thirty years ago, they accounted for only about 10%. Sociologists and other researches attribute the following reasons for this increase:
- Divorce no longer carries with it the stigma it once did.
- People live longer today and have higher expectations for a happy life.
- People also have higher expectations as to what marriage should entail.
- Technology, especially the ready availability of online dating services, let older people think that they need not settle for staying in an unfulfilling marriage when they likely can still find marital happiness.
Unique gray divorce issues
Few if any gray divorce couples face the issues of child custody and support that younger divorcing couples face. In all likelihood, any children the older couple had are grown up and living away from home. But the lack of these types of issues almost pale in comparison to the often severe financial issues older divorcing couples face.
For instance, if you chose to stay home and rear the children, you undoubtedly will need spousal support in order to live. Conversely, if you worked as the only breadwinner, you may well face imminent retirement and a consequent drop in your income. You likely will not have enough to support both yourself and your former spouse.
Even if both of you worked throughout the marriage and have healthy 401(k) accounts and/or vested pension plans, equitably dividing these during your divorce can be problematic at best. You may require a complicated QDRO; i.e., Qualified Domestic Relations Order, in order to distribute your retirement account monies.