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Gray Divorce: Issues Older Couples Face When Their Marriage Ends

You might think divorce after 50 would be easier than it is at a younger age when couples are more likely to have small children and fewer assets. But divorce at a later age carries its own set of challenges, some of which you may not even experience until after the divorce judgment has been finalized.

Although divorce rates have been on the decline for decades, so-called “gray divorce” is on the rise. Divorces are still more common among younger people, but with many aging Baby Boomers in their second or third marriages, which are more likely to fail, divorce for those in their 50s and 60s is occurring at double the rate it was 25 years ago. If you are among those 50 and older contemplating divorce, be sure to contact a lawyer to discuss your options.

For women, especially, the end of a marriage can trigger financial surprises. They can be good surprises — such as a 401(k) that they didn’t know about. But more often they are harsh realizations that women were not as involved in planning for the future as they should have been. The Los Angeles Times reported recently that most women leave the financial responsibilities in a marriage to their partners. Women may relinquish investment decisions that affect retirement savings, and also may lack an awareness of debts, such as the mortgage balance, the existence of a second mortgage, credit cards, and car loan balances.

Having a clear financial picture before you decide to divorce is critical. The time to collect financial statements, passwords, account numbers and other financial details is before you or your spouse moves out of the marital home. Leaving financial discovery to a lawyer after the fact is time-consuming and costly and isn’t always successful. That said, if you think you haven’t uncovered all of your assets or debts, be sure to inform your lawyer so that steps can be taken, such as subpoenaing bank records.

Both men and women are often blindsided by their children’s reaction to their parents’ separation. If you have grown children, you may assume that because they are no longer living with you and your spouse, the split will be easier than it would have been when they were younger and at home. But returning to an unfamiliar home for the holidays or having to split visits between two homes can be stressful for anyone. And children who perhaps haven’t been around to see how much their parents have grown apart may not appreciate the upside of less tension and unhappiness in the family home.

To manage expectations, you might even want to consult your lawyer about stipulating to a visitation schedule; of course, grown children have to agree, but this way each parent knows that, for example, they’re alternating hosting Thanksgiving from year to year, or visiting a child and grandchildren for the holidays. Such arrangements take the pressure off children to have to decide between parents and can head off arguments that otherwise might arise long after the divorce dust has settled.

Williams Family Law represents clients in divorce, child custody and other family law matters throughout the Sacramento area. If you are over 50 and considering divorce, call 916-407-0544 or contact us online to schedule a meeting.

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