Although many Missouri residents may think of the typical divorcing couple as young to middle-aged, a recent trend indicates more older couples are deciding to end their marriages. Statistics show that the number of divorced adults over age 50 has increased significantly in recent decades, and the rate is expected to continue rising, prompting a special term for this situation: “gray divorce.” Most divorcing couples of any age experience a great deal of emotional and financial stress, but couples divorcing at an older age often encounter additional challenges, both during the process and once the divorce is finalized.
For one, when it comes to dividing assets, divorcing older people may find division of retirement benefits particularly challenging. The general rule is that any money accumulated during the time of the marriage is split equally between partners, regardless of the earnings of each person. This means that one person may see his or her retirement fund diminish in value once it is split down the middle. Divorcing couples may also struggle with determining property division. Although property acquired prior to the marriage typically remains with the person who accumulated it, because of the length of the marriage, in the case of gray divorce, it can become especially challenging to clearly determine what belongs to whom.
Older divorcing individuals may also suffer from the end of health insurance benefits if they depended on their partner’s benefit plan during the marriage, particularly since health care costs tend to increase with age. As well, an individual holding a life insurance policy may be able to remove his or her partner’s name as beneficiary at will either before the divorce action begins or after the divorce is finalized. Additionally, the adult children of an older divorcing couple may encounter their own challenges. The divorcing couple often count on children to provide emotional and sometimes financial support, and sometimes adult children are forced to take sides in a contentious situation.
Individuals going through the divorce process at any stage in life usually find the experience stressful enough, but gray divorcees typically face additional challenges, financially and emotionally. Keeping discussions as amicable as possible can alleviate some of this stress and will help to ensure each party moves forward into the future they envisioned, however long that may be. An experienced Missouri family law attorney can be a valuable legal resource throughout this process.