Someone’s perception of their marital relationship could change unexpectedly in a matter of minutes. They might uncover a hidden bank account or discover electronic communication involving someone with whom their spouse is having an affair.
Other times, the relationship may have been slowly devolving for some time when one spouse finally gives up and files for divorce. Older adults who have stayed married for many years and who are now very close to retirement age or have already retired may understand what they can expect from life if they remain married but not what will happen if they file for divorce. Learning about what happens during a gray divorce later in life can help someone make more informed choices about their marital circumstances.
Family dynamics are different
Many people in an extended family and a broader community might take the stability of a couple’s relationship for granted. It can be very hard for friends, neighbors and family members to accept the news that a couple they viewed as forever committed has chosen to file for divorce.
Adult children, in particular, often have much stronger reactions to news of a divorce filing than people expect. Older adults need to brace themselves for the elevated possibility of family disputes related to their divorce.
Personal property is likely more intertwined
The longer people stay married, the more shared resources they have. Those preparing for a gray divorce may have already paid off the principal balance on their mortgage. They might have investment accounts and extensive retirement savings at risk in the divorce.
It is common for divorcing spouses to argue intensely over what happens to their marital property. Claims for spousal support or alimony can also heighten the tensions during a divorce. Those who have spent decades together may either be in a better position to compassionately negotiate or could be at the end of their patience with their spouse, meaning they may have an easier time than other couples negotiating a settlement or may find it impossible to agree with one another.
Every case is unique, but the likelihood of support, property division and family challenges are consistent issues in many cases. Identifying challenges that could complicate an imminent gray divorce can benefit those who are ready to leave an unhappy marriage.