Utah couples face unique economic, emotional issues during gray divorce

Gray divorce often requires careful financial planning, the division of complex assets and special consideration for any minor or grown children.

Divorce can be a difficult and painful experience at any age. However, people in West Valley City who separate at a later stage in life may find that the divorce presents various distinct challenges that are not apparent at younger ages.

More people are divorcing after the age of 50; the New York Times reports that, since 1990, the divorce rate among this age group has doubled. In 2011, one-quarter of all Americans who had divorced in the last year were at least 50 years old. As these "gray divorces" become more common, it's important that people who are thinking about pursuing one understand the unique associated issues.

Financial Considerations

USA Today explains that gray divorce is often a financial hardship. Even though older couples have had more time to accumulate assets, they also have less time left before retirement to recover from losses. Divorce often results in greater expenses for each person, since spouses can no longer share or save on costs such as housing and insurance. Experts estimate that funding two retirements can cost as much as 50 percent more than financing a shared one.

To accommodate these costs, divorcing spouses must typically choose between delaying retirement and downsizing during retirement. Spouses who already left the workforce may have to reenter it, potentially in lower-wage positions than they previously held. In addition to these issues, spouses face the challenge of properly dividing marital property, since uneven property division may prove financially devastating.

During a Utah divorce, all property acquired during the marriage, aside from gifts and inheritances, is considered marital property and divided equitably. Correctly dividing some of the complex assets that are considered marital property, such as retirement accounts, can be a difficult process, especially for older spouses, who often have accumulated a substantial amount of these assets.

Impacts On Family

Gray divorcees who had children later in life also must reach an agreement for child custody and parenting time. If parents cannot independently reach an arrangement, a family law court may award legal and physical custody to one or both parents, or the court may order a combination of sole physical custody and joint legal custody. The court makes the decision that will serve the best interests of the child, with the following factors taken into account:

  • Each parent's behavior and relationship with the child
  • The child's own preferences
  • Each parent's ability to work with the other and put the child's interests first
  • The distance between the residences of both parents

Parents who had their children at a younger age may not need to worry about these issues during gray divorce. However, The Chicago Tribune notes that gray divorce can still have serious emotional impacts on grown children. To minimize these effects, parents should avoid asking their children to take sides, making them act as mediators or confiding in them about marital problems or new relationships. Parents should also understand that their children will need time to adjust to the separation, regardless of their ages.

Seek Advice During Divorce

Gray divorce can introduce many unusual challenges, in addition to the typical concerns that any couple faces during a divorce. Anyone who is preparing to divorce at an older age in Utah should consider speaking to a divorce attorney for advice before the proceedings begin.

Keywords: gray divorce, retirement, assets, children