Gray Divorce: A Comprehensive Legal Guide to Divorce After 50 in Hackensack, NJ
Gray divorce is a relatively new concept. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) conducted the first comprehensive study of divorces after midlife in 2004. This study recognized that while divorce rates were steady or declining for most age groups, the divorce rate among people over 50 was increasing.
These divorces happen for many reasons. Some couples delay divorce until their children grow up and leave home. Other couples simply realize they cannot stay together for another 20 or 30 years. Regardless of the reason, these divorces bring unique legal and financial issues. Contact our team Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers at (201) 487-1199.
Gray Divorce Procedure
Gray divorces come with some unusual problems that require creative solutions. But they are handled exactly the same way in court. One spouse will file a divorce petition. This petition will give some basic facts about the marriage and ask the court to dissolve the legal relationship between the spouses.
The goal of a divorce is to resolve issues and dissolve the marriage.
The typical issues the divorce court must address in a final decree include:
If the spouses can agree to terms for resolving these issues, they can simply enter into a settlement agreement, and their divorce attorneys can submit the agreed-upon terms to the court for approval.
In other cases, the spouses might not have a settlement in mind, but they may be open to settling their divorce case instead of fighting in court. In these situations, they can use a process called “collaborative divorce,” where the spouses and their lawyers work with a team of experts to find a way to separate the couple’s property and finances fairly.
Finally, one or both spouses may choose to contest some or all of the issues in the divorce. If the spouses contest any of the issues, the court will hold a divorce trial on those issues. For example, if the spouses agree there will be no alimony but disagree over the property distribution, they will try the property distribution issues in court.
After a divorce, the ex-spouses:
- Can remarry
- Have separate finances
- Cannot create legal obligations binding on each other
Each of the ex-spouses has the legal status of a single person after a court dissolves the marriage.
Legal Issues You May Face in a Gray Divorce
In some ways, gray divorces may be easier than divorces involving younger spouses.
Many couples deliberately delay their divorces until their children grow up and leave home. Without minor children, the court does not need to consider child custody or child support. Spouses can get highly emotional when dealing with custody issues, and gray divorces often avoid these contentious issues.
Equally importantly, the couple has often had a longer shared life and knows each other better. Even if they want to end their marriage, they may still feel they can compromise. As a result, gray divorces may get resolved as either a collaborative or uncontested divorce.
On the other hand, gray divorces may involve more acrimony over property division and spousal support. This can happen because the couple has had a long time together to build up their wealth. When it comes time to divorce, the spouses might have some valuable assets coming their way, depending on the outcome.
Some economic issues that can arise include:
The Couple’s House
According to the National Association of Home Builders, your home is likely your most valuable asset. In some cases, it may represent more than 90% of your household’s net worth.
In gray divorces, the value of the home may be even greater. If the mortgage has been fully paid, this asset comes with no debt. And any sale of the home could reap a windfall for the couple since they do not need to use the proceeds to pay off a note.
At the same time, the couple will usually have a home too large for either ex-spouse alone. As a result, they may be inclined to sell the house and divide the proceeds instead of fighting over possession of the family home.
Spouses involved in gray divorces are often retired or approaching retirement. Even though their home is their largest asset, the spouses may rely on or plan to rely on retirement accounts and pensions for their income.
Often, the spouses have retirement accounts of radically differing values. One spouse may have a retirement-based account with a significant sum of money the couple intended to share during their golden years. But this will not change in a divorce.
Judges will often use their authority over marital assets to divide retirement accounts so both spouses share them. This might bother the spouse whose job funded the account. But as long as it was funded during the marriage, the law considers it to belong to the couple, and it will get divided along with the rest of the assets.
Spouses in a gray divorce may have paid their mortgage.
But they often have other debts for:
- Recreational vehicles
- Vacation homes
They may also have taken out home equity loans or personal loans to make large purchases. When the court divides the marital assets, it will also divide the marital debts. Often, the spouses can work out a settlement where the spouse who takes an asset also takes the associated debt.
Suppose the couple owned a boat. One spouse may agree to give the other spouse the boat if they also take the boat loan.
Hiring a Hackensack Divorce Lawyer After 50
When you face a gray divorce, you should find a lawyer who understands the issues these divorces may involve. A lawyer can use their experience and knowledge of these issues to anticipate and resolve them.
As you approach your golden years, you need assets. After a divorce, you probably have to start over with a new home. And you should anticipate that you may need to put some money away for health issues that will arise as you age. Contact Arons & Solomon Divorce Lawyers for a free consultation to discuss how you can protect yourself during a gray divorce.