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Gray Divorce: Divorce for Spouses over the Age of 50 on the Rise

While divorce at any age can be emotionally and financially devastating, divorce for those over the age of 50 can be especially difficult. Unlike younger married couples, older divorcees must consider the devastating consequences for retirement. Often these couples have been married for twenty or more years and have substantial assets and debts between them.

Commonly, in divorces with older spouses the parties must negotiate the terms of the following:

Alimony, commonly referred to as spousal support, is a monthly payment paid by one spouse to the other so that the spouse in the weaker economic position can financially support his or herself. In Pennsylvania the courts have the discretion to order alimony for a specific time or lifetime.

Lifetime alimony is common in gray divorces, because, ordinarily, the spouses have been married for an extended amount of time and one spouse, generally the husband, has been the sole or primary bread winner.  While alimony payments are intended to ensure the receiving spouse can support his or herself, the amount awarded depends on several factors, including the other spouse’s earning capacity.

Should the alimony awarded not be sufficient for support the consequences could be devastating; especially when the spouse in the weaker position lacks employable skills or is in poor or declining health.

Division of Marital Assets

Ordinarily, older divorcees have acquired significant property (and debt) during the marriage, including a home (or multiple homes), vehicles, and jewelry. Unless specifically identified as separate property by proper agreement, inheritance, or gift, these items are considered marital property.

The state of Pennsylvania practices equitable distribution of marital property. During this process the court makes a valuation of the marital property and divides the property according to what is “fair”. The court will consider several factors, including length of the marriage, standard of living established during the marriage, and the income of both spouses.

While the court will weight all relevant factors when determining a fair distribution; however, this might not always be financially fair to the one or both spouses. Often divorce at an advanced age takes away a spouse’s consistent financial support, companionship, and supporting during times of illness or hospitalization. One or both spouses may be forced to downsize, sell certain property awarded in the divorce, or even relocate to a more affordable geographic area.

Retirement Accounts

Retirement accounts are the most important divisible assets in a gray divorce. Person age 50 and above are either quickly approaching retirement or already retired. Spouses have spent most of their careers preparing and saving for later in life when they are no longer working. Now, these funds must be divided.

Ordinarily, married couples save for retirement together. While both parties may not contribute equally, it is widely accepted that these funds will provide for the both of them considering they share a home, vehicles, and other property.

However, once a divorce occurs these same funds are expected to go twice as far because there is two of everything—two homes, including maintenance, repair, and utilities; medical costs, and basic needs. More often than not, the spouses did not anticipate a divorce and did not save enough for retirement. In this case, the spouses may be forced to work longer, downsize, or rely on children and other family for support.

What to do if Considering Divorce Over 50

If you or your spouse is over the age of 50 and considering divorce, it is important to plan. First, consult an experienced divorce attorney. Allow the experienced divorce attorneys at Ciccarelli Law Offices help you navigate through this difficult time.

Our team of attorneys will intently listen to your concerns and devise a strategy to make you as whole as possible following a divorce. Our team effort is to be both thorough with our analysis and honest with you about our assessment, and we’ll negotiate and argue for your fair share, regardless of your circumstances.

Call us today at (877) 529-2422 to learn more about your options during a free initial consultation. You can meet with one of our attorneys conveniently at an office location in Lancaster, Philadelphia, Plymouth Meeting, West Chester, Kennett Square, Malvern, Springfield, King of Prussia, or Radnor.


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