If you are married, over the age of 50, and headed for a Massachusetts divorce, you are about to become part of the gray divorce phenomenon sweeping the nation. No one knows who first coined the term “gray divorce,” but it applies to older couples who, after twenty or more years of marriage, decide to divorce. And as Kiplinger reports, the number of gray divorces continues to increase while the number of other divorces continues to decrease.

Many factors account for the rise in gray divorces, including the following:

  • Very little, if any, stigma attaches to a divorce or a divorced person today.
  • People have considerably longer life expectancies today than they once did, and they want to live those lives fully and happily.
  • People have higher marriage expectations today than they once did, expecting marriage to provide them with love and companionship, not just financial stability.
  • Online dating services give older people hope that they still have a chance to find someone they truly love, and who truly loves them back, with whom they can spend the remainder of their life.

While gray divorces represented only 10% of all divorces nationwide in 1990, they now account for 25%. In addition, over half of today’s gray divorces represent couples whose marriages have lasted for more than 20 years.

Special gray divorce issues

As you might expect, you will face different issues in your gray divorce than you would have faced had you divorced at a younger age. For instance, if you and your spouse have children, they likely have grown up and moved out of your home. Consequently, you likely will not have to face child custody and support issues.

On the other hand, you may well face tougher and more complex property division issues. Remember, Massachusetts is an equitable distribution state, which means that the property settlement agreement you and your spouse negotiate must be fair and equitable to both of you or the judge will not approve it. Your respective retirement accounts and the substantial funds you likely have accumulated in them may well be a particular issue, especially if one of you will retire in the next year or two and therefore have to rely on pension or 401(k) funds to cover your living expenses.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.