Does an Aging Population Mean More Grey Divorces?

By: Henry Gornbein
Last Update: November 01, 2016

I recently attended a seminar where one of the topics was the issue of grey divorces. Our population is aging. A major portion of our population consists of baby boomers. We often talk about midlife crises, but what does this mean? Does it even exist?

Think about the fact that many years ago there were fewer divorces because marriages did not last long due to the death of a spouse. We have many cases where people grow apart. They often face an empty nest when the last child moves out or goes to college. Many people are asking, "Is that all there is?" There are the numerous affairs. There is the impact of social media on all aspects of our society, with Facebook now impacting 1/3 of all divorces.

With people living into their 80s and 90s on a routine basis, many people are stuck with each other much longer, hence a growing divorce rate in long-term marriages.

By long-term, let’s say at least 20 years. In addition, we have many second marriages where people are in their 50s and 60s and contemplating a divorce. There are several issues that impact differently on people in their 50s, 60s, and even older when they divorce:

  1. It takes longer to recoup and recover after a divorce when you are older and have less time to rebuild your economic structure. This is especially true if retirement is looming.
  2. For someone out of the job market, especially women, it is harder to find work. If you were once earning a substantial income, it is much more difficult to find comparable employment. The reality is that you are competing with youngsters in an economy where benefits such as health insurance are much cheaper for someone who is younger. You often will not have the skill set that is needed in our rapidly changing workplace.
  3. Social security can be an issue. Federal law governs in this area with the rule that you must be married for at least 10 years to collect social security from your spouse based upon a divorce.
  4. In a long-term marriage where social security is in pay status, should it be equalized? Should alimony be based upon the amount of social security being received?
  5. Can pensions be used to defray or buy out some of these issues?
  6. Health issues can be critical with older divorce clients, and these must be recognized.
  7. Alimony is often long-term or until death or remarriage in a long-term marriage, but it must be remembered that if someone is close to retirement, the spousal support could end or be drastically reduced at that time.
  8. Dealing with the fact that you are dividing assets and debts can be a major issue, especially if you are close to retirement.
  9. You may have to postpone your retirement or rethink your life in the event of a grey divorce. 

All of these are issues that must be explored with your attorney if you fit into this growing part of our population. These are some of my thoughts on this important divorce issue. What are yours?


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