What Is Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce refers to the dissolution of a marriage when the couple is 50 years old or older. The splitting up of two “gray-haired” or older people can come with unique issues and complications. The financial implications of a late-in-life divorce can be far-reaching for the couple – especially if the marriage was long and they have commingled their assets for many years. You may need a San Diego divorce attorney to help you get through your gray divorce in California.

How Common Is Gray Divorce?

There is a rising rate of gray divorce, or divorce among older adults, in the United States. While the rate of divorce overall is dropping in America, divorce among 50-plus individuals currently makes up about one-fourth of all divorce cases. In addition, about 1 in 10 divorce cases involve couples who are 65 and older. 

Theories as to why older couples are getting divorced more often than before include divorce being an option that did not exist for past generations, couples growing apart after being married for more than 20 years and empty nesters no longer having children in the house to keep them together. Some individuals simply want to try to make their golden years as happy as possible.

Unique Issues Involved in a Gray Divorce

Gray divorce may not look the same as divorce involving younger people. An older couple may have been together longer, resulting in higher-value assets and a more complicated property division process. In addition, older couples often have complex assets such as stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts. Below are just some of the unique issues couples face when dealing with gray divorce in California:

  • Complex division of assets. In California, the courts will divide a couple’s assets down the middle (50/50) if they cannot reach a property settlement. If an older couple wishes to remain in control of their property division, they will need to organize complex types of assets. This may include employee benefits, pension plans, business ownership stakes, multiple vehicles or homes, inheritances, and life insurance plans.
  • Retirement accounts. It can be difficult to divide retirement accounts in a gray divorce case. Pension plans, 401(k)s and Social Security benefits are complex assets that can be difficult to divide – especially if one spouse acquired the retirement savings, as the other spouse may still be entitled to a portion of the benefits post-divorce.
  • Income disparity. Older couples are from a generation where it was more common for women not to work and men to be the sole or primary earners. This frequently leads to a significant income disparity in gray divorce cases. The courts may award alimony to the lower earner in a gray divorce. The odds of permanent (long-term or indefinite) alimony are higher with an older couple that has been married for a long time.

Issues such as retirement, complex property, premarital assets and debts, and spousal support can make gray divorces difficult. The best way for an older couple to protect their hard-earned assets from California’s community property division law is often mediation. Mediation can help you avoid a costly trial and stay in control of how your assets are divided. It can also help you resolve your divorce case faster than a drawn-out trial and keep stress to a minimum.

Why You Need an Attorney for a Gray Divorce

If you are considering divorce after the age of 50, know that you may be facing an uphill battle. You can make the legal process simpler and more rewarding by hiring an experienced divorce attorney in California. A lawyer can guide you through all of the unique and complicated aspects of your case with tailored legal services and advice. Your attorney can also handle issues such as estate planning and long-term care to help you prepare for your future after a gray divorce. For more information about gray divorce, request a free case consultation with a lawyer at Boyd Law.