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7 Things to consider in a 'gray' divorce

More and more married couples in their 50s and 60s are leaving behind stale marriages. So-called late-life divorces (or "gray" divorces) are not only becoming more acceptable - they're becoming more commonplace.

Recent studies indicate that, while the overall U.S. divorce rate has remained relatively stable since 1990, the divorce rates for adults over the age of 55 have increased - for adults between the ages of 55 and 64 the divorce rate has doubled, and for those 65 and over the number of divorces has tripled.

And interestingly, studies indicate women initiate over 60 percent of the divorces that occur after the age of 40.

Since there is less time to recover financially from a gray divorce, however, there are several things to pay particular attention to:

  1. The house - Deciding what to do with a longtime residence is particularly difficult. On the one hand, the house may contain many memories and prove useful in the future (tax benefits and exemptions, reverse mortgages, potential rental income). On the other hand, a court is likely to split the asset evenly (with the other spouse receiving a cash settlement in exchange for their legal interest in the house) and the expenses involved in the upkeep of a house may be prohibitive post-divorce.
  2. Pension plans - Pensions can be easily overlooked during a divorce, but in a gray divorce it's especially important to remember to include pensions when dividing property and assets.
  3. Retirement plans - Like pension plans, including the amount of retirement plans when dividing assets is a must, and since they are generally considered property of both spouses, they should be divided 50-50 along with the rest of your property and assets.
  4. Social security - Couples who have been married for more than 10 years may be able to get Social Security benefits based on their former spouse's earnings records.
  5. Health care - Usually, one spouse's health care covers both spouses - that will end with a divorce. Keep this in mind when discussing issues such as health insurance and alimony/support payments.
  6. Caregiving - If one spouse has been providing caregiving services to the other, the monetary impact of having to move to an assisted living home (or hiring a nurse) should be taken into account.
  7. Children - Even if the children have moved out of the house and are now adults themselves, consideration should be made of their emotional response, the financial impact on them and the natural human instinct to "choose sides."

Gray divorces are nothing to be ashamed of. However, they are something that requires the delicate and professional touch of an experienced divorce attorney. Make sure you enter your golden years with the financial and emotional support you'll need to enter a new, happier life.

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