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The Grey Divorce


Divorce after age 50

According to Pew research, the divorce rate of adults ages 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s.  And just because more baby boomers made the choice to separate, it does not mean that it’s any easier. After nearly three decades of practice, our firm has compiled a list of our clients’ most common complaints about the ‘grey divorce’ process and aftermath.

I can’t believe the judge is making me go back to work.

Our client had raised four kids.  Everyone agreed, she was a dedicated mom and now grandma. She had attended all her husband’s (quite frankly boring) functions to further his career, and when she attended the hearing to get temporary spousal support, the judge said that based on her college degree (from a few decades ago) and the lack of children at home, the judge thought she had the ability to earn a certain amount of income.  Our client was outraged and understandably so. What really happened?

The judge did not really expect our client to go to work; rather, he imputed income on her, solely for the purposes of calculating spousal support, also known as alimony.  Our client had to decide if she could make ends meet based on her investment income and spousal support or if she needed to re-enter the workforce.

I didn’t think my friends would pick my spouse’s side, but they bailed on me.

The reality is that after a long-term marriage, you and your spouse have built long term friendships as a couple. Most of our clients report that they lose some friendships.  Some friendships are lost because you were friends as couples; not individuals.  Many friendships are lost because the friends do not want to take sides, and they are no longer friends with either of you.  And lastly and unfortunately, you might lose some friends because they weren’t really your friends in the first place, and they remain friends with your former spouse.

My friends gave me with worst advice.

There are no black and white, 100% guaranteed, rules in divorce. Every law has exceptions and every exception has another exception.  Only a family law attorney with extensive knowledge of family law and experience with the local court system can give you an estimate of what to expect.  Your friend may spitefully tell you that he or she emptied the house. He or she will fail to tell you that they were sanctioned many thousands of dollars or at the end of the ride, the judge gave the spouse a bigger portion of the assets to offset that moment of anger.

Someone should have told me it would be that expensive.

The cost of the baby boomer’s wedding was peanuts compared to the average wedding costs of the millennials.  Additionally, consider the assets that the baby boomers accumulated through the years and the length of the marriage and potential of spousal support, and we end up with the baby boomers’ incorrect expectations of costs that are too low, and the reality of the costs due to complications that can become quite high.

However, a good family law attorney will discuss the various options to settle the case.  At Kraayeveld Law, our attorneys do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Some of our clients will be able to have some kitchen table negotiations and some of our clients will be able to use a mediator to reach a settlement. Our attorneys sit down with you to discuss if settlement is an option or if a more aggressive approach is necessary or requested.

No one told me about the financial fall out.

A divorce later in life can be financially devastating.  You may have planned on a certain retirement age and looked forward to that day for a long time. Your limited income due to the payment or receipt of alimony may postpone your retirement date.   Additionally, all assets will be divided equitably; this may mean that you end up with insufficient assets to retire as planned.   You may have paid off your mortgage years ago; however, you may have to buy out your spouse to maintain ownership of the home, and you once again are making mortgage payments.

Bottom line

The decision to divorce after a long-term marriage is a significant decision.  However, knowing what to expect and to be prepared for the consequences will alleviate the fall out.  Talk to a counselor to ensure that your marriage is irreparable before proceeding with divorce.  Talk to the attorneys at Kraayeveld Law to know what to expect. We are here for you to sit down over a cup of coffee and be part of that planning process.  Call us at (616) 285-0808 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your next steps.