Working Through the Unique Issues of a Grey Divorce

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Even though the U.S. divorce rate has pretty much leveled off and even decreased over the past two to three decades, the divorce rate for couples over 50 years of age has increased dramatically and now accounts for over 25% of all divorces.  There are many factors that may help explain the rise in “grey divorce.”  Some likely reasons include:

Growing apart

After a long marriage, couples feel they don’t have much in common anymore and have different interests and goals.  People expect more of marriage today.  Sticking it out in an unfulfilling marriage, just for the sake of being married, has become passe‘.

Improved health and longer life expectancy

People are living much longer than they did even 50 years ago, and they’re healthier and active.  A divorce at 55 or 60 isn’t the end.  It’s often the beginning of a new and interesting chapter of one’s life and seniors are ready and willing to take action to pursue a more fulfilling life.

According to data compiled by the Social Security Administration as of 2016:

  • A man reaching age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 84.3.
  • A woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86.6.
  • About one out of every four 65-year-olds today will live past age 90.
  • One out of 10 will live past age 95.

Opportunities to Date

Divorced seniors are entering the dating scene at unprecedented numbers, looking for new opportunities to socialize and meet new people who share their interests.  Online dating is surging in popularity for those over 50.

Women are financially independent

Women over the last 20-30 years have been in the workforce and led more independent lives.  They’ve had or may still have a career, other than motherhood, and don’t have to rely on their husbands for money.  Husbands are no longer the sole breadwinner in the family.  Women have much more financial stability as they age.  They have good salaries, retirement accounts, pensions, 401k accounts and are much more able financially to leave an unsatisfying marriage.

Critical issues to consider in the Grey Divorce

When younger couples divorce, the main issues are usually child custody and support, visitation, spousal support (alimony), and division of property.  No matter why you’re seeking a divorce later in life, the fact is the longer a couple is married, the more complex the issues surrounding their divorce will be.  The division of marital assets can be significantly more complex and complicated during divorce proceedings.  The Commonwealth of Virginia is an equitable distribution state.  That does not mean property is split 50/50.  Equitable means fair, not even.  It is important that you speak with an experienced Virginia family law attorney to ensure that your divorce gives you the new life you are planning for.  Here are the issues and financial challenges a knowledgeable Virginia divorce attorney can work through with you:

  1. Income and spousal support: How will each spouse maintain an income stream that meets their circumstances?  Will it require rejoining the workforce, delaying retirement, paying or receiving spousal support, or splitting a fixed income, like a pension, if you’re retired?
  2. Division of property: If you’ve been married 20 years or more, you probably have significant assets, both marital and separate property that will need to be divided.  It may be difficult to define which is separate property after a long marriage.  There are many considerations that are unique to a grey divorce when dividing assets, such as the length of the marriage, if one or both parties are retired or close to retirement, when and how assets were obtained, pensions and retirement accounts, inheritances, and much more.
  3. Social Security: In some circumstances, a spouse is entitled to benefits based on his/her spouse’s social security.  This depends on the duration of the marriage and each spouse’s income. Getting remarried will stop any spousal social security benefits.
  4. Life insurance: Anyone paying spousal support is required to have a life insurance policy in the amount and for the term that is equal to the amount and duration of the spousal support decreed in the divorce.  This can impact seniors, as even term insurance policies can be extremely and sometimes, prohibitively expensive.
  5. Long-term considerations: There are many issues surrounding getting older, including competency, long-term care, end of life care, and preparations for burial or cremation. This should be considered in a grey divorce. It is important to update your estate plan both during and after the divorce to protect your estate and your wishes.

As you can see, divorce issues for older couples are far more complex than issues a young or newly married couple face.  If you are considering divorce as a senior citizen, it is important that you speak with an experienced Virginia family law attorney with expertise in senior divorces.  Together, you and your attorney will carefully plan and prepare for all eventualities to ensure that you have the bright future you desire.

About Melone Hatley, P.C.

Melone Hatley, P.C. is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about a grey divorce and family law, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach, or visit our website:

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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