Ending a marriage later in life carries with it some considerations that are not necessarily present when you divorce earlier. In California, things like healthcare, insurance, business interests, retirement savings, estate planning, taxes, and Social Security can get complicated. You want to make sure that your interests and rights are protected because how these things are determined and distributed could greatly impact your future.
At The Geller Firm, our divorce attorney in California will review your life circumstances and finances to make sure you get the representation you deserve. Though baby boomers made gray divorces popular, new generations are following suit. Make sure your rights and interests are protected; contact us at 415-840-0570 today to learn more about gray divorces (also referred to as grey divorces) and the unique issues this type of divorce brings to the table.
What Constitutes a Gray Divorce in California?
While the overall rate of divorces in our country has declined, the rate for couples over the age of 50 has almost doubled since 1990. As mentioned, the phrase coined for this type of divorce is gray divorce.
Gray divorces differ from divorces between younger couples. Under a gray divorce, children, if any, are typically grown and independent by the time a married couple files for divorce, so child custody and child support are not typically issues with which to deal. There are, however, other pressing issues in the marriage, the bulk of which involve retirement benefits and investments. Alimony, more commonly known today as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is another important matter, especially because the dependent spouse may not be at a point in life where finding a job or starting a career is feasible, especially if they have been at home over the years to care for children specifically and the home generally.
Why Gray Divorces Happen in California
The causes of gray divorce vary, but there are some causes that are more common than others. First of all, most of these couples are baby boomers and grew to adulthood when Americans were in a stage of seeking personal fulfillment. As such, they approach divorce with a more open mind than their predecessors.
Reasons Married Couples Divorce Later in Life
- Empty Nesters. Their nest is empty, and the couple no longer shares anything in common. Sometimes, couples intentionally delay a divorce until their children are grown and move out.
- Financial Reasons. Many spouses delay divorce until they feel financially stable. It is a big financial risk to divorce, especially when one spouse is dependent on the other spouse.
- Retirement. One spouse wants to enjoy retirement and live life to the fullest, while the other feels it is time to settle back and enjoy the peace that comes with getting older and not having to deal with life pressures
- Living Longer. People are living longer, and some older married persons realize they have a lot of life left and are determined not to spend it in an unhappy marriage.
- No One's Fault. Generally, the couple's attitude toward their marriage has changed, and they are genuinely unsatisfied with the marriage and find it easier to divorce.
Again, the reasons why these divorces happen vary, but the factors to consider in these divorces remain fairly even across the board.
Factors to Consider in California When Getting a Gray Divorce
The issues that matter in a divorce between younger couples in their 20s and older couples in their 50s are not the same. Older couples are at a completely different stage of life, and as such, have to consider matters that are important to them now. Issues that should be considered in gray divorces are described below.
Many people face retirement in their 50s or early 60s. Even those who do not retire at this age have likely accumulated assets to support themselves when they do finally retire. These assets can include stocks, pension plans, and other retirement benefits. When considering a divorce, it is important to know how California handles property division in divorce.
When married for a long time, some states may hold that all retirement benefits, such as 401ks, IRAs, and other plans be split between the parties. This could have a huge impact on the amount of money you retain from your own retirement accounts as well as those of your spouse. Something that would last much longer won't when it is split in half. So, though you thought you had a certain amount of savings and sources of income for retirement, that may change if you enter into a gray divorce.
The dependent spouse or the spouse who earned less may qualify for a portion of the other spouse's Social Security benefits. Issues, like when the spouse can start collecting social security benefits and how delayed retirement credits may affect it, will have to be sorted out during the divorce. Remarrying can also affect a spouse's eligibility for the other's Social Security benefits.
Health and life insurance should be considered. For many couples, one person in the marriage provides health insurance to both parties through their employer. It is important to consider how you will be affected should you no longer be able to receive health insurance through your spouse's employer. You may qualify for Medicare based on your former spouse's Social Security benefits (or the other way around: because of your benefits, your ex may be eligible for Medicare).
Life insurance particularly matters when one spouse requests alimony, known as spousal support in California. When a spouse is awarded spousal support, life insurance may be used as security, ensuring that the spouse entitled to spousal support receives financial benefits upon the death of the other spouse.
Estate Planning & Long-Term Care
A gray divorce means you lose the spouse you may have once thought you would grow old and live out your days, with one of you caring for the other until death. Now, you will have to rethink estate planning and long-term care. For the latter, the average long-term care costs for a semi-private room can run upwards or beyond $6,000 a month, depending on the amenities, the care you need, etc. That is expensive, so making sure you either have the income or savings for it or have another arrangement will be important.
Another matter to consider––which is related to most of the above factors––is the amount of income you will be able to receive after the divorce. For example, are you entitled to alimony? Will you be able to collect Social Security from your spouse's earnings after a divorce? Make certain you know what your income will be once the divorce is finalized.
Contact a Gray Divorce Attorney in California Today
Divorces happen to anyone at any age, but when they happen in your older years, there are quite a few factors to consider. At The Geller Firm, our gray divorce lawyer in California, will walk you through each factor. We believe informed clients make the best decisions for themselves. So, contact us at 415-840-0570 to schedule a consultation and learn more about what's at stake in a gray divorce and how to make sure your rights and interests are represented.