By Madeline Laurence, Lawyer
For many people, the concept of Divorce has been associated as something that occurs among young couples rather than couples of older age groups. A recent article published by U.S Family Law Practice, Strickler, Platnick and Hatfield, provides an interesting view on this assumption, speaking about the new phenomenon known as “Gray Divorce”. Gray Divorce refers to the current spike in divorce rates among couples aged over 50, often involving couples who married young and stayed married for decades, but it may also involve couples in a second or third marriage, or couples who married for the first time later in life. Much like any Divorce, the process is no less difficult or painful for those going down this path at a later point in life. In fact, the article suggests those of older age groups face unique emotional, relational, legal and financial challenges to those of younger age groups.
Divorcing at a later age can cause further emotional and relational issues, particularly when there are adult children of the marriage. In circumstances where only one spouse wants the divorce, or one spouse committed adultery or other misconduct that led to the divorce, it is common for adult children to voice their opinions and can impact the relationship they hold with each parent. Relationship counselling is therefore suggested so as to ensure both spouses are on the same page and can effectively communicate the reasons to their children. Similarly, it is common for one spouse during a relationship to take the lead when it comes to arranging social outings. As it is more difficult to build new friendships at a older age, the article places an important emphasis of Gray Divorce couples to maintain existing friendships or to ensure they make a conscious effort to create new ones.
Given most Gray Divorce couples have adult children, the issue of child custody is often avoided, and rather the focus is on the financial issues between the parties. Occasionally however, there are marriages between an older spouse and a younger one who share a minor child. Like any divorce, in circumstances like this the court will take into account the factors surrounding what is in the best interests of the child, including other factors such as the couples’ assets and finances when determining child custody. The financial issues of Gray Divorce couples also pose their own challenges. Reason being most Gray Divorce couples accumulate significant assets over the course of their marriage, with the issue then intensified in circumstances where only one spouse has been the primary money earner throughout the course of their marriage. It is therefore important for each spouse to ensure they have an experienced family law lawyer who is capable of dealing with both basic and complex financial and child custody circumstances.
Lastly, the article stresses the importance of Gray Divorce couples to update their estate plan, including healthcare advance directives and beneficiary destinations, as soon as practicable.
Read the full article on Gray Divorce here.