Earlier this year, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their separation and pending dissolution of marriage calling attention to a growing trend of divorcing after age 50 known as “Gray Divorce”.  This trend has been increasing while the divorce rate among younger people is on the decline. The reason for divorcing after decades of marriage vary but research suggests the trend coincides with a decreased stigma associated with divorce as well as other contributing factors such as the parties have drifted apart and want different things at this stage.
Gray Divorces share many similarities to traditional divorces but differ in some critical areas. First, custody is generally not at issue for most people going through a divorce after age 50 because any children of the marriage are no longer minors. However, adult children may still be affected by the end of their parents’ marriage so it is important for the parties to shield their adult children from any conflict. Moreover, you will want to maintain family harmony if you plan to jointly attend life events for your adult children such as weddings and grandchildren.
As in a traditional divorce, the parties in a Gray Divorce will have to identify, value and divide the community estate. However, the length of marriage is often decades long and the parties may have accumulated a lot more assets and debts then in a traditional divorce making it hard to identify the estate. It may also be harder to locate documents to prove transactions that took place earlier in the marriage. This burden may be eased if you have used the assistance of an estate planner or financial planner during your marriage.  Another concern is that there is less time to recover and rebuild your estate after the divorce.
Finally, the needs of the parties differ if they have been married decades and are near or at retirement age.  It is public policy of the state that the supported spouse takes reasonable steps to become self-supporting, but in a Gray Divorce the duration and amount of spousal support for the supported spouse will carry more weight. You must also take into consideration the age of the parties and retirement of the wage earner spouse in fashioning a spousal support order.
If you are over 50 years old and considering divorce, your needs differ from younger divorcing people. It is important you have an advocate that understands these needs and will work with you to resolve the issues. If you need assistance with your case, we are here to help you.


Shannon R. Loeser, Esq.
Certified Family Law Specialist
28202 Cabot Road, Suite 520
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
Tel: (949) 392-5050