Divorces that occur close to retirement age or even after a married couple has retired are gray divorces. At first glance, choosing to divorce after your children have grown up and left the house might seem like a less complicated process than divorcing when you are younger.
However, gray divorces have their own set of complications that people frequently overlook or minimize. When you understand how divorce is different when it occurs late in life and after decades of marriage, you will do a better job of planning to protect yourself and the future you envision for your golden years.
A gray divorce thing will disrupt your relationship with your kids
When children are young and their parents divorce, the process can be very stressful. They may feel caught between their parents, and it is normal for children and teenagers to have behavioral and mental health issues following a parental divorce.
Waiting until your children move out of the house does not prevent the divorce from affecting your relationship with them. In fact, psychological research indicates the opposite is true. Adult children are often more likely to take sides when their parents divorce and may be more comfortable than teenagers, adolescents or children cutting one parent out of their lives entirely because they blame them for the divorce.
Property division and maintenance are more complex after long marriages
The more shared property you have with your spouse, the harder it is to split everything up when you divorce. You will have decades of personal property and family debt to divide in a gray divorce.
A marriage that lasted for decades may have seen one of the two of you exit the workforce to raise children, making one spouse dependent on the other for retirement income. While there may no longer be child support because your children are grown, spousal maintenance or alimony could be an issue. Long-term marriages that lead to late-in-life divorces may give rise to longer maintenance orders than divorces that take place when someone could still theoretically rejoin the workforce.
Both spouses may need to adjust their expectations for their standard of living during retirement and be realistic about what property division outcomes are appropriate in a gray divorce. Recognizing the unique challenges created by a gray divorce can help you navigate the process more gracefully and with less conflict.