Divorcing is no picnic at any age, but if you are splitting with your spouse after a long-term marriage, you’ll be confronted by unique issues compared with those affecting younger divorcees. Here we look at some of the important considerations to bear in mind for those going through a “grey divorce”.
The global demographic trend towards an increase in the number of divorces in couples who have been married for 20 to 30 years or more has been given the label the “grey divorce”, but divorcees aged over 50 or 60 are sometimes also called “silver” or “diamond splitters”. Whether it’s due to the stigma of divorce disappearing from modern society, or because couples grow apart later in life, or because dynamics change after ‘empty nest syndrome’, there are more “grey divorces” than ever before. And when those emerging from a long-term marriage go their separate ways, there are some things to be aware of so that a divorce settlement can be reached that is fair and allows both parties to face the new future with positivity.
What’s different about a grey divorce?
The divorce landscape can appear simpler, often because child custody issues are no longer relevant as children have already reached adulthood. But instead, there is increased complexity in terms of how to work out the parties’ financial needs now and to safeguard their future.
A well thought out agreement is needed to ensure a fair and equitable division of assets and property accumulated throughout the marriage, especially if one spouse depended on the other during the marriage and may not be able to easily transition to independence. The couple may also need to adjust their expectations around standards of living if there is likely to be a substantial reduction in spending post-divorce. It may be that assets need to be liquidated to support living expenses.
Here are some of the other common considerations in a grey divorce.
- What is the reality of future employment?
- Retirement issues – how long are spouses able to work, or want to work, or is there mandatory retirement?
- Are there any health issues – acute or chronic, perhaps necessitating long-term care? Is there sufficient health insurance cover?
- What are the budgetary needs of each party before and after retirement?
- Are there any support obligations, such as caring for ageing parents? How long is support needed, and does the obligation change over time?
- What is the superannuation situation?
- Are there any government pensions or payments to consider?
- How will property be dealt with? Should it be held jointly until death, divorce or a different event?
- Have Will provisions been made for kids, grandchildren, and each other?
- What is the value of premarital assets and liabilities?
- Are there any inheritance issues (such as if premarital assets were co-mingled and turned into marital assets)?
- Will spousal maintenance be payable and if so, how much and for how long? Note that the payer is probably already advanced in their career and their salary package may have become very complex, with things like bonuses, share options, ownership stakes, car lease, travel perks, and so on. Working out spousal maintenance involves calculating the total compensation, not just their base salary.
When going through a divorce, grey or otherwise, your main aim is to ensure you get a fair, cost-effective and timely outcome. Choosing the right family lawyer can make all the difference here—forget about hiring someone who will watch you waste three years of your life arguing all the nitty gritties with your ex all the way to court, where you will be forced to accept a judgment imposed on you that perhaps isn’t ideal for either party. Instead, consider choosing a lawyer who will successfully mediate your divorce, saving you time, money and stress.
Why mediation suits the grey divorce
Divorce mediation is well suited to older couples who are often lower conflict and able to problem-solve with their ex to achieve a fair and equitable agreement. It does require that couples are able to cooperate to gather documents and complete worksheets and forms before mutually negotiating an agreement, and so may not always suit the old-fashioned mindset of some people who are not open to proactive involvement. But for those who can, divorce mediation has the following benefits.
- It saves money
It’s critical not to waste money on the divorce process because there is really not a lot of time to recover financially and protect retirement plans. And the cost of a mediated divorce is much, much lower than a litigated one.
- It saves time
Everyone wants to get through this difficult chapter of life as quickly and painlessly as possible, so when you compare the figures, it makes sense to attempt divorce mediation. Statistics suggest that the average length of a litigated divorce is 2 to 3 years, whereas a mediated divorce can take 4 to 5 months from woe to go.
- It’s less stressful
An older couple may already have plenty of life challenges, including existing financial issues, career stresses, ageing parents to care for, kids who left home ‘boomeranging’ back if things didn’t work out, health insurance premiums going up, potential medical issues and so on. And then you add divorce, with its potential to take up years of your life with angry arguments, emails, phone calls and mounting legal bills. It makes sense to try to reduce the stress of a divorce as much as you possible can, and that’s where mediation comes in. With divorce mediation, you’ll be able to achieve an end result that gives both parties a divorce agreement firmly fixed in the present but with a keen eye on the future.
Do you need assistance with a divorce or other family law matter? Please contact Canberra lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.