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Michigan Family Law Blog

Friday, March 15, 2019

What is a Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce (also called grey divorce) is when adults age 50 and older dissolve their marriages. Because the baby boomer generation is now in this age range, a substantial number of people are seeking gray divorces. Our Michigan divorce lawyers are seeing more of these types of divorces as this generation figures its way through the aging process in America.

How Gray Divorces Are Different from Other Divorces

Gray divorces tend to deal with different issues than the divorces of younger people. For example:

  • Child custody and visitation. When both spouses are age 50 and above, it is less likely that they will have young children in the home. If there are dependent children, the kids are likely to be in high school or college. The custody and visitation issues are less complicated with older dependent children, because the parents usually do not have to run them to school and activities as much as they would with a child in elementary school or daycare. 

  • Child support. Child support for an older dependent child will focus more on things like tuition, college housing and meals, books, car insurance, and cell phone, as opposed to a younger child, for whom childcare can be a substantial expense.

Since gray divorces do not tend to involve very young children, some parties argue against an award of spousal support, as both spouses are likely available for full-time employment. On the other hand, if one spouse was a stay-at-home parent throughout the marriage, he or she might need additional education or job skills training to enter the workplace. It can be a challenge to enter or reenter the workforce after age 50. Sometimes we work with a vocational expert to address this issue.

Financial Issues of Gray Divorce

When two people divorce, they go from one household to two households. The financial planning for retirement with one household is unlikely to have generated sufficient savings to support two households. It can be hard if not impossible to stretch those dollars as far as they need to go for both spouses living apart after the divorce.

Dividing the retirement nest egg is not always as simple as it sounds. The retirement savings accounts might include contributions that one or more of the spouses made from jobs they held prior to this marriage. Splitting the retirement accounts in half is not always appropriate. We can work with a team of professionals to determine the fair distribution of the retirement accounts in a gray divorce.

Divorce can cause a person's financial picture to take a hit. When a young person divorces, there are many more years ahead, so that person has an opportunity to rebuild savings and bounce back from the divorce. In a gray divorce, however, there is a more limited timeline.

If you are 50 or older, you do not have as many years left in the workplace as, for example, a 25-year-old worker. After divorcing in her 20s, a worker can still build up 30 or more years of work history, to earn a decent Social Security retirement check one day. On the other hand, if you are entering the workplace after age 50 for the first time or after a long absence, a Social Security check based on your earnings might be quite paltry.

Schedule a consult with Michigan mediation lawyer, Cameron C. Goulding today to answer your questions about gray divorce.


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