Partially because the marriage rate has declined, the divorce rate has dropped somewhat since 2000. The number of over-50 divorces, or grey divorces, has bucked this overall trend, however. This figure has doubled since 1990.
Longer and more active lifespans may have something to do with the grey divorce phenomenon. Today, a 50-year-old person may expect to live another 30 years, and most of those years will be active ones. That is a long time to remain in a bad marriage. Furthermore, divorce’s moral acceptability recently hit an all-time high. People who previously never considered marriage dissolution now see it as a viable option.
Late-in-life families are still somewhat rare. So, most couples over 50 do not have minor children at home. But there are still significant child custody issues in these cases. Some are emotional and some are legal.
Emotionally, adult children often take divorce harder than young children. Kids are resilient and used to change, but older people are different. Adult children have a lifetime of memories with Mom and Dad. The new normal will take some getting used to. Moreover, many adult children look forward to their children’s graduations, weddings, and other life events. These happy occasions may become chess matches. For example, Dad and his new wife might not be able to sit anywhere near Mom and her new husband.
There are legal issues as well, especially with regard to grandparent visitation. It is common for an adult child to blame one parent for the divorce, and this child may retaliate against that parent. If that retaliation includes cutting off grandparent/grandchild contact, the affected grandparent may have a legal remedy.
Health care is a major issue for many middle-aged couples. That is especially true for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Divorce ends non-employee spouse eligibility for a group health insurance plan. In the Obamacare era, this loss is not as bad as it once was. But the Obamacare era may not last forever, and even if it does, there still may be some significant changes in this area.
Legal separation may be an option in these cases. The couple remains legally married but they live apart. This type of legal separation is usually part of a negotiated settlement. Without such negotiation, if one party files for legal separation, the other party usually counter-files for divorce.
The house may be an issue, as well. Many people of this age have significant equity in their homes. A forced sale and equity division may be in everyone’s best financial interests, at least in the short term. There are some significant long-term financial issues, as well as some emotional issues.
An owelty lien for partition may be an option. For example, if Wife keeps the house, Husband may obtain a lien for his current equity share. When Wife sells the house, Husband gets his equity share.
Retirement accounts are a third issue. Many of these account owners are on their second marriages, so their retirement accounts may have already been halved.
Many times, an attorney can negotiate an offset. For example, Husband might take 100% ownership of a rental house if he waives any claim to Wife’s retirement account.
Grey divorce affects many, many families in the area. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Chicago, contact the Arami Law Office, P.C. We routinely handle matters in Cook County and nearby jurisdictions.
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