Grey Divorce | Things to Consider When Divorcing After Decades of Marriage
Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 8:32AM
Admin in Family Law, Vanessa Soto Nellis, costs of divorce, division of assets, divorce, divorce planning, retirement

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by Vanessa Soto Nellis

San Fernando Valley Custody Lawyer Los Angeles


The Japanese call it Retired Husband Syndrome. Here in America, the phenomenon is not so cut and dried.

We simply call it Grey Divorce, a trend that sees twice as many marriage dissolutions for the Baby Boomer generation now, than there were 20 years ago, according to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.

You may have seen the trend for a while: Tipper and Al Gore splitting after 40 years of marriage; Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins after 23 years; or even the 99 year old in Italy who jammed the news wires last December because he sought a divorce from his wife of 77 years. (The gentleman cites infidelity as the cause, though his wife's affair occurred in the 1940s, and he himself never knew until recently.)

The reasons are varied, ranging from extra-marital affairs, to more financial independence for women, the restlessness of empty-nest syndrome, or the ever-present "growing apart" phenomenon we hear of so often.  A change in lifestyle (like retirement) can accentuate a marriage's problems, and the differing goals of each partner can put strain on a relationship.

Whatever the cause, couples undergoing a Grey Divorce have unique problems in the dissolution process. Sure, the children may be grown so they won't have to worry about child custody or visitation schedules, but there are other elements to consider.


Older Divorcing Couples & More Valuable Assets


Spousal Support – Many Baby Boomer couples will live longer than the generations that preceded them, and they tend to be healthier than those generations as well. If the spouses are retired there is fixed income that now needs to be used to cover expenses for two households. Thus, one spouse may need to return to work to make ends meet.

People going through a Grey Divorce should remember to consider their future needs.

Retirement Benefits – Whether a spouse took care of the children or worked outside of the home, both parties in a Grey Divorce will need, and be entitled to, retirement benefits. The retirement accounts will be divided.

Financial Management – It's often challenging for a spouse who hasn't handled the finances before to have to do it all of a sudden. It's important to work with a CPA or financial planner to make sure enough money is set aside for taxes, and that a budget is established to meet living expenses.

There are other considerations as well. Older divorced people who don't have any children should think about updating their retirement and estate beneficiaries…9 times out of 10 the beneficiaries are the ex-spouses.

Whatever the reasons for a divorce, there are always obstacles that will need to be considered carefully before they can be overcome. An experienced family law attorney can help with many of these, and recommend insurance or estate planning professionals to help with the others.


Vanessa Soto Nellis is a Divorce and Family Law Mediation Attorney in our Family Law Practice Group. You may contact her via e-mail:

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