When a couple over age 50 ends their marriage, it’s sometimes referred to as gray divorce. The gray divorce rate has been on the rise over the last twenty years. When a couple decides to divorce at this stage of life, it could be for any number of reasons. It may be that the two are simply no longer compatible or because of something more painful such as an affair or cruelty by one partner towards the other. Whatever the reason, divorce can be one of the most emotionally and financially devastating experiences in a person’s life. However, going through it when you are retired or getting close to retirement age can bring additional challenges. Here is what to expect during a gray divorce.
Reasons for Gray Divorce
The reasons a couple may divorce during a later stage of life can vary. For some, it may be a matter of having drifted apart after decades of being together. For others, once their children have grown up and moved out, the couple may find that they no longer feel connected to one another. As with any marriage, issues such as financial problems, addiction, cruelty, or infidelity can also be the reason for a divorce.
California Community Property
When a California couple decides to divorce, the income and property they have acquired during the marriage are generally considered community property. Although there are some exceptions, this means that what you and your spouse have earned and purchased belongs equally to both of you. It is irrelevant who made more money during the marriage. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whose name is on a deed or title: If community funds were earned or used to purchase the property, it belongs to both of you. When you are divorcing, the court is going to make an equitable division of the community and attempt to leave both parties in a similar position.
Spousal Maintenance is Possible
It is common for a couple going through a gray divorce to have been married ten for more years. During their relationship, one partner may have been the primary wage earner while the other stayed home or delayed entry into the workforce to care for their children. In California, the court can order that the more financially well off party pay alimony, or spousal maintenance, to the other on a temporary or permanent basis. The divorce court will look at numerous factors when considering this issue, including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of the parties, support one spouse provided to the other’s career and education, and the parties’ standard of living. Generally, if the court orders support when a couple has been married less than ten years, it will not be for more than half the length of the marriage. When the marriage was for longer than ten years, there may not be a limit to the duration.
Retirement of Your Own can Mean Making Significant Changes
As each gray divorce partner prepares to start life over on his or her own, they are probably going to have to re-examine their retirement plan. A couple who spent years preparing to retire together, probably budgeted and planned to share housing and routine expenses. Dividing your retirement accounts means you will have far less available for you to live on when you stop working. Consequently, you may have to work longer than expected or return to the workforce to pay your household expenses.
At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we are California Elder Attorneys who understand the issues that can arise during a gray divorce. Please contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment to discuss your case and examine your options. /contact/