Divorce After a Long Marriage or Late In Life: What To Expect

Coloradans facing divorce after a long marriage have unique challenges, including financial, social and emotional, and health-related concerns.

"Grey Divorce" Presents Unique Challenges For Older Adults

Divorce is rarely easy or simple, but the issues involved in a divorce after a long marriage can make the process even more challenging – legally, financially, and emotionally. 

Divorcing late in life, also known as "grey divorce," is a growing phenomenon, with divorce rates for couples over age 50 steadily increasing over the past decade. 

Many of the reasons that would lead a couple to seek a divorce after a long marriage or later in life are the same as those that lead younger couples to end their marriages: growing apart, constant conflict, different visions for the future, infidelity, etc. In some cases, such underlying issues have been present for years, but the couple decided to wait until their children were grown to pull the trigger on their separation. Other times, changes in priorities and perspectives that come with getting older send couples in different directions. 

But getting older changes much more than our point of view. 

Our financial circumstances and needs are different and can be much more complex after we retire or as we approach retirement age. Our health may require more attention and medical care, and our relationships with adult children or other family members may have evolved positively or negatively. 

All of this means that divorce after a long marriage involves unique issues that are less of a concern for younger couples. 

Current or Impending Retirement Raises The Complexity – and the Stakes

After a lifetime of accumulating assets and making plans to spend their golden years together, separating those assets and unwinding those plans can be a complex task. The disposition of pensions, individual retirement accounts, social security and veterans' benefits, and accumulated marital property such as stocks, annuities, and other investments and accounts will determine each spouse's financial security for the rest of their lives. Income and assets, once available to fund a comfortable retirement for the couple, may no longer be sufficient when each spouse is on their own.

Even if you and your spouse largely agree on the division of assets and property, you may still face a lengthy and involved process that will take your attorney some time to address. On the other hand, if there is significant disagreement or animosity between the two of you (which is common in divorce after a long marriage), expect costly battles between the attorneys that could extend the length of the proceedings. 

Related: 5 Tips for a Faster Divorce in Colorado

Estate Planning

Related to the issue of asset distribution, but presenting issues of their own, are estate plans, including wills, trusts, powers of attorneys, life insurance policies, and advance health care directives. Each spouse may have the other designated as a trustee, executor, beneficiary, or agent in these documents. More often than not, couples who divorce after a long marriage will want to update their estate plans to remove their former spouse from those roles. 

For blended families, a step-parent may want to remove a step-child from their will or make other changes to reflect the new circumstances of their life. 

Couples with comprehensive or multi-faceted estate plans, in particular, are wise to seek legal counsel to effectuate these changes, adding further legal costs to the process.

Emotional and Social Challenges

Whether you're 25 or 65, divorce will trigger many emotions ranging from sadness, loss, anger, and disappointment to relief, hope, or joy. However, for people facing divorce after a long marriage, those emotions may also involve loneliness, fear, anxiety, and a loss of identity. They have built their lives – their children, their friendships, their home – around this one relationship that is suddenly no more. This can be a jarring and disorienting experience. 

Also, starting friendships and building new social connections later in life can be much more challenging, especially if the person has not developed relationships independent of marriage. Because of this emotional and social upheaval, those who divorce after a long marriage need a strong support network in place to help them navigate this transition. 

Related: Can You Appeal a Divorce Judgment and Decree?

Health Issues

Not only can "grey divorce" create emotional and mental health issues, but divorce after a long marriage can also impact physical health. 

Older adults are already more vulnerable to health problems and chronic conditions. But the stress of divorce can exacerbate many of these issues, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Additionally, divorcing seniors need to ensure that their health insurance resources, whether Medicare or otherwise, are accounted for as part of the divorce process. 

Divorce After a Long Marriage Has Many Challenges - But You Don't Need to Face Them Alone

If you are considering filing for divorce, especially after decades of marriage, your unique needs and circumstances require both reliable and compassionate legal counsel. At Perkins Law in Colorado Springs, our divorce attorneys know that the decision to end your marriage is deeply personal. You can rely on us to provide not only expert legal advice and direction but also empathy for your individual situation. We take pride in ensuring that all aspects of our client's circumstances receive the care and understanding they deserve.

Speak with an experienced and caring family law attorney today.