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“Grey Divorces” shouldn’t cause Gray Days

She kept warm meals on the table for 54 years, he brought home the bacon. He made all the investment decisions and she picked out his clothes for work almost everyday. They raised their children and have seen three generations grow before their eyes. This couple has been through the many of the changes the nation endured and are still perplexed by the rapid advancement of technology and the new “societal norms”. For 54 years this husband and wife were both dependent on one another for their needs and decisions. While staying married 54 years for their children and grand children is a great example of long lasting marriage, for the couple it was 54 years of heartbreak, sacrifices, financial loss, roller coasters of joy and grief, feeling trapped, and possibly even years of infidelity. They both were products of the baby boom after World War II, so it was ingrained in them that divorce was not an option nor could it be a natural consequence if their relationship forced them to face difficult hardships. In their minds, their hardships couldn’t have been as bad as couples who had endured the war or The Great Depression, so they had no excuse for calling it quits. They both gave what they considered to be their all. Now, after all is said and done, they finally want to remember the taste and smell of happiness and freedom that they felt some five decades before.

According to a U.S. Census Department report released in April 2021, 34.9% of all Americans who were divorced in the previous calendar year were aged 55 or older. The recent studies also revealed that the rate of older adults getting divorced is rising in long-term marriages. These cases are called “Gray Divorces”. The overall divorce rate is going down while the “grey-haired” demographic’s rate of late-in-life divorce is on the rise. Grey divorces are now becoming far more common amongst members of the Baby Boomer generation. The “Grey” divorce rates are rising now that the children and even grand-children are grown and have left home. Typically, the couple were married at a young age, after which one spouse lived their life solely dependent on the other throughout the marriage. As a result, the possibility of divorce was delayed as it might be difficult for him or her to transition to independence, and the timing never seemed quite right as they watched their children and grandchildren grow.

Causes for Grey Divorces are quite varied. They are rising in couples who struggle with debt or constantly fight about finances, spouses who may not recognize the person they married years ago, infidelity, built up and unaddressed frustrations, domestic violence, alcoholism and so forth. On the bright side, studies also show that life spans have drastically increased, so people have stopped shying away from the idea of divorce because there is new hope of one day still finding true happiness. Now that the stigma around divorce is diminishing, many are deciding that divorce would be the better course of action.

While the new found hope of freedom may be liberating, the impact of Grey Divorces is often quite messy as many decades of a family’s foundation seems to be in shambles. Grey divorces have a big impact on family finances, the redrafting of wills, distribution of real and personal property and figuring out what to do with inherited property and rights. These Grey Divorces can also feel bit overwhelming because life insurance policies, Social Security benefits, investments, and retirement benefits must be considered before finalizing the divorce. Still, “Grey Divorces shouldn’t cause gray days. Luckily, the laws of Georgia are applied the same for long-term marriages in Grey Divorce as well as shorter term marriages, so the parties have a fair opportunity not to leave the marriage with the short end of the stick.

The reality is the stay at home spouse who cared for the house and children played just as significant role in a marriage as the spouse who worked to provide financial support as the primary bread winner. Family law attorneys are by far the best equipped to help parties understand what they are entitled to, as well to design routes for finalizing the divorce making things less complicated for the entire family. Options such as mediation, settlement agreement, a pre- nuptial agreement, creative division of retirement accounts abound. Divorce impacts the entire family unit, so knowing one’s rights and routes to obtain the goals of freedom and happiness after a divorce is essential in finalizing the divorce fairly and within a reasonable amount of time.

After all, enough time has been lost already.

Renee Richardson