If you’re over the age of 50 and facing the end of your marriage, you’re probably headed toward a “gray divorce.” Even though the divorce rate in the United States is declining, the Orange County divorce rate remains high, and gray divorce statistics show that older couples are divorcing twice as often as they did in the 1990s. “Gray divorce” acknowledges the fact that older couples and younger couples tend to divorce under different circumstances.
Generally, a gray divorce does not involve child custody or support issues if your children are already independent adults. Instead, retirement benefits, investments, and alimony or spousal support are more likely to be at stake when your marriage is dissolved.
Why Gray Divorces Happen in California
Although there are many reasons for gray divorce, there are some common themes. Many people your age are seeking personal fulfillment in their lives and approaching divorce with an open mind. You may have decided that you want a different lifestyle if you and your spouse have grown apart.
Couples who feel financially stable often feel free to separate and move on. Divorce can be less risky if your partnership is on strong financial footing, even if your spouse depends on you for support (or vice versa).
It’s common to delay divorce until their children have become adults and moved out. Once you’re free from the responsibilities of childcare, you may find yourself reevaluating your life.
Once you have more free time, you may find that you and your spouse have very different goals for retirement and are headed down separate paths.
In general, people are living longer, healthier lives. If you believe that staying in an unhappy marriage will keep you from making the most of your time, you may decide to divorce.
If you’ve grown apart from your spouse and see no way to rekindle the marriage, divorce may be the best path forward.
Factors to Consider in California When Getting a Gray Divorce
When older couples divorce, the financial issues that come into play tend to be associated with their stage of life. The state of California provides spouses with a no-fault divorce, but the process takes time. It takes at least six months after filing for divorce to finalize the paperwork, but a gray divorce may take much longer if there are many issues to negotiate, which include:
California community property laws stipulate that assets will be divided equally between partners, even if one spouse has a seemingly larger role in the breakdown of the marriage.
Many people who retire in their 50s or early 60s have accumulated assets, stocks, pension plans, and other retirement benefits they can use to support themselves. It is important to know how California divides property, including retirement benefits like IRAs and 401ks, when a marriage ends, because it can impact how much money you’ll retain after the divorce. Spouses may also share pension benefits after a marriage ends, and these assets can be difficult to split.
Social Security Benefits
In a gray divorce, a dependent or lower-earning spouse may be entitled to a part of their partner’s Social Security benefits. The year a spouse can start collecting social security benefits, delayed retirement credits, and alimony payments will need to be established before the divorce is finalized. If the dependent or lower-earning spouse remarries, their new status can affect their eligibility for these benefits.
Income and Alimony
If you’re opting for a gray divorce, it’s important to consider how much income each party will be able to receive after the termination of the marriage is finalized. Ownership stakes in a business, inheritances, and annual bonuses can make alimony allotments complex. Be sure you understand how much income you will be receiving before you sign the paperwork.
Health and Life Insurance
If you are divorcing and your health insurance is provided by your spouse’s employer, it is likely that you will need to find another form of coverage. Some dependent or lower-earning divorcees may qualify for Medicare based on their former spouse's Social Security benefits. California law also requires former spouses who pay alimony to carry a life insurance policy that is equivalent to the duration and amount of spousal support. The policy ensures that the spouse who is receiving support will continue to gather financial benefits if their former spouse dies.
Estate Planning and Long-Term Care
A gray divorce means you will face the future without your spouse beside you, so you may need to reconsider your estate planning and end-of-life care. It’s also important to plan for long-term care, which can be expensive.
Alternatives to Divorce for Older Couples
Sometimes, it may be worthwhile to consider legal separation as an alternative to a gray divorce. In California, legal separation enables you to resolve many of the same issues and financial matters you would deal with in a divorce proceeding while allowing the marriage to remain valid. This can benefit spouses and families that have moral qualms about divorce and also be useful for tax and insurance purposes. By opting for a legal separation, you can live a separate life without ending the marriage.
Contact a California Gray Divorce Attorney at Citadel Law Today
Divorce can happen to couples of all ages, but ending your marriage after the age of 50 involves facing a very specific set of issues. At Citadel Law, our divorce attorneys will help you work through the process of gray divorce in California so that you can make informed decisions that will help you and your family move toward a better future. To schedule a consultation and ensure that your rights are protected and your interests are represented, contact our Orange County office at 800-662-0882 today.