Addressing the unique challenges of a gray divorce

| May 4, 2021 | divorce |

For older New Hampshire couples, there may be a perception that their marriage is secure and there is no need to worry about the possibility of divorce along with its ramifications. Divorce and family legal issues are frequently viewed as something younger people need to worry about. However, in recent years, the number of divorces among people over 65 has been rising significantly. Whether the marital woes were known and getting worse or they cropped up without warning, there are unique concerns in these so-called “gray” divorces and it is important to be prepared for their specific factors to be protected.

The issues in gray divorce center around health and finances

Although every divorce is different, a gray divorce generally has certain basic aspects that repeatedly arise. People 50 and older are categorized as people getting a gray divorce. In general, these are couples whose children have left the nest; who are preparing for their pending retirement; and are thinking about what they want for the rest of their lives. This may be the catalyst for soul-searching and deciding that they are dissatisfied or unhappy in their marriage with a lingering desire to move on. Still, the foundation for a successful gray divorce is knowing how it has impacted others and avoiding their missteps. Finances and health are the keys.

Older people may have accrued a vast and diverse portfolio with real estate, bank accounts, investments and retirement accounts. Dividing assets is a challenge in every divorce and gray divorce is no exception. Gray divorces can be harder because there is more to sort through. It can be confusing to split joint accounts and determine how the marital home will be handled. This should be analyzed as soon as possible with a full accounting and appraisal. Older people are rapidly approaching the time when they will receive Social Security if they are not already receiving it. If one spouse was the breadwinner, the other spouse might have the right to a portion of their Social Security benefits.

Health insurance is always a topic to think about. Divorce could upend health care coverage for a person who is not yet eligible for Medicare and was on the other spouse’s plan. Knowing the options and if there is a way to get health care coverage after a divorce can avoid a worrisome gap. Older people who have been vigilant about estate planning might forget to update the plan to account for the new marital situation. That is also true for retirement accounts which might need to be changed individually and not through the estate planning documents. Taxes are always a worry, especially for the lower-earning spouse or one who did not oversee the finances. Selling a property can present tax woes that many are unprepared for.

Divorce can be complex, but preparation is helpful

In the past, people might have remained in an unfulfilling marriage because of society frowning on divorce, fear about their financial future or being unaware as to how the process works. Today, there is more information available and people may express a greater willingness to venture into the unknown. Understanding the problems that older people face in a gray divorce can help with mitigating them.

The case does not need to be contentious. Many divorces are amicable, especially if there was no single event that set it in motion like infidelity. In such cases, negotiation with a collaborative process or through mediation can end the marriage efficiently and without rancor. In other cases, there might be rampant dispute with significant assets at stake. From the beginning – even when the divorce is only a minor consideration and the person simply wants information – it is wise to have experienced advice to know the terrain and to take appropriate steps to try and achieve a successful outcome.