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Advice for those considering going through a gray divorce

This article looks at what makes gray divorce unique, particularly when it comes to dividing marital property.

The idea of getting divorced after 50 used to be considered taboo, but in recent years so-called gray divorce rates have grown significantly across the United States. As the Washington Post reports, the divorce rate for those 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010. As many Baby Boomers begin entering retirement, the prospect of a later-in-life divorce has both its upsides and its downsides. While a gray divorce can provide a level of freedom and emotional well-being to some, there are risks, particularly financial ones, of divorcing after 50. Below is a brief look at what makes gray divorce so unique.

Preparing for retirement

Those going through divorce in their 50s or 60s have one thing in common that younger divorcees typically do not: they are often preparing for an upcoming retirement. Divorce can have a big impact on one’s finances and it could leave either spouse with half of what he or she was expecting for retirement. Furthermore, pension plans and retirement funds are almost always considered marital property, meaning they can be divided between both spouses. Dealing with a gray divorce’s impact on one’s retirement planning will depend on one’s unique circumstances. For some, taking an extra few years to work may be a necessity, while for others downsizing may be a more practical approach.

Spousal home

Speaking of downsizing, one asset that often causes plenty of consternation in a gray divorce is the spousal home. Instances often arise when one or both parties will insist on holding onto the spousal home, especially given the emotional attachment people often feel towards their home. From a financial perspective, however, holding onto the spousal home could be a mistake. Trying to maintain a home that was built for more than one person while also on a reduced budget could leave one spouse house poor and less able to enjoy his or her upcoming retirement. While keeping the home can make financial sense in some cases, for many people a better idea may be trading the home in exchange for something that will prove more useful during retirement, such as a pension fund.

What about the kids?

As U.S. News and World Report points out, although most gray divorcees do not have to deal with issues surrounding child custody and visitation, disagreements about providing financial support to grown children may still arise. Because it is more common today for parents to provide assistance to their children even into adulthood, a plan may need to be worked out between both divorcing spouses about dividing responsibility for helping any adult children get on their feet.

Family law

Divorce can bring up many contentious issues, especially later in life when the financial stakes tend to be much higher. A qualified family law attorney can help those who are going through a divorce, no matter their age. By providing strong legal representation, an experienced attorney can help clients negotiate a divorce settlement that will likely be most beneficial to them in the years after their divorce.