There was a time when divorce was mainly the arena of young couples who realized they were incompatible or who experienced issues, like infidelity. Couples who had spent decades together did not choose to divorce, even if their marriages were no longer healthy and happy. That has changed in recent years, with older adults and couples with decades of marriage together choosing to seek a fresh start in their golden years. The divorce rate among couples over the age of 50 has doubled since the 1990s.
Many different factors contributed to this increase. The social stigma around divorce is much lower than it was years ago. Our culture has embraced the idea that sometimes people need to end existing relationships to pursue their own happiness and well-being. Couples at or near retirement age may find they no longer have much in common with their spouse and worry about spending years together without the interruptions of childcare and work. For these couples, divorce may be a better option than staying together in an unhappy situation.
Understanding how gray divorces are different
In most gray divorces, the children from the marriage are already adults who live independently. There won’t be any protracted battle over custody and child support. Parents can also worry less about the emotional impact of the divorce on their children since adults are more capable of processing and working through this trauma than minor children would be.
Gray divorces often include more assets than divorces involving much younger couples. After all, you’ve spent your adult lives working, building up equity in your home and investing in a retirement plan. That could mean you have a more contentious battle in front of you regarding asset division unless you and your spouse come to mutually agreeable terms about how to split up your possessions and debts.
Grey divorces can also involve substantial spousal support. If one of the spouses stayed home to raise the family’s children, there is likely a significant disparity in earning potential as retirement-aged adults. The stay-at-home spouse could receive ongoing spousal support (also called alimony) after a divorce. The courts may also allocate part of regular pension payments to that spouse. Understanding Pennsylvania laws about spousal support and assets in a divorce can help you predict the outcome of your divorce.
Prepare yourself for the financial impact of divorce
Even if you have substantial assets, divorce will unquestionably impact your financial situation. Instead of maintaining one home for two people with two retirement funds or Social Security checks, you will have to support two independent households on that same amount.
However, worries about reductions to your standard of living should not prevent you from seeking the fulfilling and happy golden years you deserve. If a gray divorce is in your future, you should start planning now for minimizing its impact on your retirement and finances.