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Challenges of a Gray Divorce

Concept of misunderstanding and  communicative problem between two senior people, they are standing back to back, isolated on grey background

Divorce rates have, for the most part, flattened out or decreased across most age groups.  However, one group has seen a recent rise in the rate of divorce: older couples in long-term marriages.  Many married couples who experience problems with their relationships either chose to stay together for the kids or, for one reason or another, have found their independence later in life.  These so-called “gray divorces” can provide freedom and relief from an unpleasant or untenable marital situation for older married folks, but they also carry specific challenges.  Read on for a discussion of issues that older couples face in divorce, and reach out to an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney for help with a New Jersey family law matter.   

Retirement benefits and Social Security

All divorces involve the division of assets, but benefits relating to retirement are some of the most difficult to value and apportion.  Retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, pensions, and Social Security benefits, in particular, can be difficult issues to resolve in a divorce involving older parties.  When couples divorce after the age of 62, the eligibility age for Social Security, the government must examine their records to calculate the amount each should be eligible to receive.  Pensions and retirement benefits are likely to be divided equally among the parties, which may seem unfair to the party who earned the lion’s share of the income for the family.  Also, the retirement benefits may not be sufficient to pay for two separate households.

Division of assets

Division of marital assets is always a complicated matter, and as you live your life and accumulate more assets, the complexity only compounds.  Gifts and inheritance may be separate property when originally collected, but if the assets are used to the benefit of the marital household or the income received becomes intertwined with household finances, it can become difficult or impossible to untangle what should still count as separate property.  The couple may possess more non-cash assets such as stocks, business ownership, or rental property, which can be difficult to divide and apportion, especially if they are non-liquid.  Judges may do their best to determine what is “fair,” but you need a strong family law attorney in your corner to ensure that the assets you own and are owed are rightfully yours to get or keep.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is both expensive and vital.  If one spouse is covered by the other’s insurance, it is important to determine what will happen to the covered spouse when they are no longer married to the principal policyholder.  If one spouse will be left without insurance, but they have yet to reach 65 (and Medicare eligibility), the parties may want to consider alternatives such as a separation before going all the way to divorce. 


Not all assets that a couple divides in a divorce are positive.  Married couples are also jointly responsible for debts incurred as a family, and debts may accumulate over the life of a marriage.  If one party has separate debts they fail to disclose, particularly if those debts were incurred using or secured by marital assets, a divorce could become extremely heated and complicated.  Parties should secure detailed credit reports and openly discuss known debt liability to ensure that debt is appropriately apportioned on divorce.

Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney

If you’re in need of experienced and efficient legal help with divorce, equitable division of property, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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