The Gray Divorce: A Growing Trend

Cindy Best

This year, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce. The previous year, Jeff Bezos and Mackenzie Scott announced their divorce. It was these two events that highlighted a growing trend in America: “Gray Divorces”.

According to a study released by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the divorce rate for Americans 50 and over has doubled since 1990. Why is this happening? John Duffy at CNN offers one explanation. According to Mr. Duffy, one of the sources of this trend is the changing attitude around long-term marriage and divorce. Specially, the “taboo” surrounding divorces are far less prominent than when many ‘gray divorcees’ were growing up. Now, more people that are 50+ are viewing their life in “chapters”, meaning people are more willing to end a period of their life and to start anew.

Now on the legal aspects of this trend, know that a gray divorce is no different from any other divorce proceeding. However, a gray divorce does present some unique challenges to consider; most notably, the amount of assets that have accrued in the marriage that are now to be divided up are generally more the longer you have been married. Because Arizona is a “community property” state, your marital assets will be divided in a fair and equitable manner. Yet, because a gray divorce involves partners that are 50 years old or older, certain considerations could factor into a ‘fair and equitable’ division of marital assets. For one, the health, age, and mental well-being of the parties could play a substantial role in your gray divorce.

Another unique challenge to a gray divorce is the possibility of one of the parties passing away before the divorce has been completed. An issue here is an existing will, likely drafted during the marriage. If you die during your divorce, you die as if still married. Your estate may be distributed to heirs you no longer want to be in the will. But even more disastrous is if the death of one spouse means that the surviving spouse inherits all of the martial assets even if you were in the process of getting a divorce. You can avoid this outcome and have your estate planning in order before you initiate your divorce.

Many older couples are embracing the gray divorce trend, despite the unique challenges a gray divorce present. A gray divorce is an opportunity to start a new chapter in your life, pursue new relationships, and so much more. If you are over 50 and are considering a divorce, consult with an experienced family law attorney at Best Law Firm to find out what legal path best suits your situation. Schedule a consultation with the Best Law Firm so we can answer all of your questions. Give us a call at 480-219-2433.

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