Divorce & Senior Citizens in California

Divorce is not something that is only reserved for young couples. Although it may come as more of a surprise, an older couple can also choose to go their separate ways. Problems within a marriage may become more pronounced as time goes on, or one spouse may develop a new outlook on life in later years. A “gray” or “silver” divorce can have unique complications.

Senior Citizen and Grey Divorce Statistics

Although it is not as common as young and middle-aged divorce, the divorce rate for individuals over the age of 50 has more than doubled since the 1990s, according to Pew Research Center. Older couples that divorce later in life are from an era when getting divorced was much less common. They may hold onto older values and traditions that make divorce less likely. Older couples may have also been together for a longer period, making it more of a surprise when the couple decides to get divorced. However, gray divorces are becoming more common.

In the last 25 years, the divorce rate among senior citizens has increased by 109 percent, from 5 divorcées per 1,000 married persons in the U.S. to 10. Among individuals who are 65 years old and older, the divorce rate has tripled since 1990. Gray divorce cases are statistically twice as common among seniors who have been previously married before compared to couples that are in their first marriage.

The duration of the marriage is also a factor; older couples who have been married for a shorter length of time are more likely to get divorced than couples with longer relationships. The divorce rate among senior citizens who have been married for less than 10 years is 21 people per 1,000, compared to 13 people per 1,000 for couples that have been married for 20 to 30 years. Gray divorces may be increasing in prevalence in part because Baby Boomers have recently moved into the class of senior citizens.

How Is a Late-Life Divorce Different?

A late-life divorce can come with unique issues and challenges compared to a divorce case that involves a younger couple. An older couple is likely more well-established, with greater financial assets and commingled community property and less separate property. This can lead to greater difficulties when trying to divide property and protect each party’s assets. Common complications involved in a gray divorce include:

  • More assets collected over the individual’s lifetime. Gray divorces are often high-value asset divorces, with related issues such as how to divide retirement incomes, jointly owned businesses, multiple properties, vacation homes and savings accounts.
  • Updating the estate plan. If the couple has an estate plan, they will need to alter it to reflect the divorce. Both spouses may need to change who they have listed as their health care surrogates, for example, to protect their estates.
  • Health and life insurance expenses. Divorce can impact a couple’s insurance plans. Both spouses will need to make sure their insurance companies are aware of the divorce, as well as understand how this may affect coverage and benefits.

One of the potential downsides to a late life divorce is that older divorcées tend to be less financially independent than younger divorcées. One or both spouses may have already retired and are living on pension plans. Divorce may also be less appealing for personal reasons, such as less comfort and security for women and less social satisfaction for men. However, divorce may still be the right option for a senior couple, depending on the situation.

Get an Attorney’s Help With Your Grey Divorce Case

A divorce over the age of 50 can come with many obstacles, including estate plans, retirement income, valuable assets and tax liability. The best way to properly handle your gray divorce case is by hiring an experienced divorce attorney in San Diego. An attorney that specializes in family law cases can help you protect your rights and best interests while seeking a divorce or separation from your spouse using a tailored legal strategy. A family lawyer can handle confusing legal processes for you while you start planning your future.