There is no singular reason why a couple may decide to divorce, nor is there a specific timeline upon which the decision fits. However, as recently as 2015, about 1 of every 100 couples over the age of 50 got divorced – about twice as many as were in 1990. With the rise in such divorces, there are some important considerations that are somewhat unique to older couples as they approach the separation process.
Reasons for gray divorces
These later-in-life separations, often called “gray divorces,” may be caused by a variety of factors. For example, many people are living longer these days, so relationships are also spanning more time and can thus face more challenges. Also, it is far more common for both spouses to either be working or have significant professional work experience, which can aid in financial independence and thus eliminate that element from a divorce decision.
Additionally, societal views have shifted and divorce as a concept is more accepted across the spectrum. The laws governing the divorce process in many states, including here in Virginia, have also adapted to provide different avenues for separation, including an uncontested divorce.
Considerations for older divorcees
Generally, those who divorce later in life may have some different considerations from younger couples. With retirement often on the horizon, one important issue will be the division of any retirement benefits, such as pensions or retirement investment accounts like a 401(k). In these situations, a qualified domestic relations order may be appropriate. In addition, beneficiaries of these accounts – which often list the other spouse – will need to be considered and potentially updated.
In addition, older couples may have significantly more assets than younger couples. Large savings accounts, substantial real estate investments and even significant personal belongings will all need to addressed during a gray divorce.
There can also be considerations regarding a joint estate plan, which can be complicated by the expectations of children who may now be adults. Although that process is separate from divorce, there are very important reasons to keep it in mind during the move toward legal separation.
In all, gray divorces can come with many significant legal issues that will need to be properly addressed as part of the divorce process. For this reason, working with experienced counsel can be vital in putting you on the right path towards a strong post-divorce life.