Complete Guide to Grey Divorce

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What is Grey Divorce? 

This is the term used to describe “older couples” who have been married for a long time who are separating or divorcing according to Wikipedia. “Older couples” are supposedly the baby boomers mentioned in the US Census. Divorce is the separation and dissolution of marriage and marital assets between two people. I can imagine you probably know at least one person who has experienced divorce at middle age. Of my circle of friends, all of us are divorced with only two getting divorced younger. I see it everywhere.

Complete guide to Grey Divorce answering your questions about how to get divorced, types of divorce, how to split debts, mistakes to avoid in divorce, and things to consider with kids in divorce.

The Beginners Guide to Divorce 

Middle aged divorce rates have been improving but a big rise in the Baby Boomer demographic. The big question is why? Multiple sites speculate that is a combination that as a whole we are living longer and women are more financially independent. Not that successful women are looking for something else, but more that strong women are no longer staying in bad marriages.

That does not imply that women are the only ones divorcing but it is a contributing factor. What I find interesting is that with the rise of “grey divorce” as they are calling it, Millennials are still ranking as the leading divorce rate. However, the millennials do not have a lifetime poured into a marriage making the middle aged divorce much more devastating.

Getting divorced was the worst and best thing that happened to me. Not only does the actual reality of it make me an expert, but as a kid I watched my mom marry and divorce several times and each time I learned a little more. The thing that separates me from so many other experts is that I lived the heartache and suffered from terrible depression. I let it rock my very foundation and then I got back up, went back to school, made a home for my kids, and moved on with life. In the process, I came to see that I am thankful for the divorce. We are both happy now apart.

How do I get divorced?

First, you need to think seriously about what divorce will mean to you and your family. This is not temporary. Divorce is the end to the way things have been, both the good and the bad. You will be losing a lot of security that you have probably taken advantage of.

Also to consider is that you will be splitting time with the kids. That means you will have holidays without them. There may be a time when someone else is going on vacations with them. You are no longer part of that family. Grey divorce usually includes strong family ties due to longer marriage periods. The emotions may run deeper because of that.

If you are the one wanting a divorce, consider marriage counseling to see if the marriage is salvageable. Counseling can be successful if both spouses sincerely want it to work. Don’t jump to toss a marriage away without serious thought and prayer.

Figure out what kind of divorce you both agree on.

  • Mediation: Working with a neutral party that helps to work out the details and terms of the separation or divorce. This is the least expensive option. However, this may not work for many situations if both parties have bad feelings or if you have children or extensive assets to divide.
  • Collaborative Law: Usually when both parties use separate lawyers and work openly to end the marriage as civilly as possible.
  • Litigation: This is the type of divorce seen in the movies with two divorce lawyers going at it with guns blazing to take everything they can get. Litigation does not always mean middle aged divorce ending in court, but it can go that far if one or both is stubborn and willing to pay big bucks to keep fighting. This is by far the most expensive divorce option.
  • Online or “kitchen table” divorce: Prepackage divorce that can be downloaded/printed by both spouses. This option is not recommended by any legal professional due to many opportunities for mistakes and loop holes. It is definitely not recommended for grey divorces due to involvement with children and more extensive distribution of assets needed.

What do I need to do to get ready for divorce?

Start with gathering financial records from the marriage, including all joint accounts. Immediately you should open your own accounts and change deposits from the joint account into the private account. Also lock joint credit cards and print out pending purchases to insure no new purchases are added during the divorce process. Grey divorces will have move in-depth net worth statements with lists of all assets, liabilities, budgets, and incomes. You will want to be thorough and include all retirement accounts, investments, collections, etc.

Tip for Grey Divorce: try to transfer or refinance all debts that are awarded to you into your name alone and your spouse to do the same. If a divorce decree states #1’s credit card bill is to be paid by #2, it needs to be transferred prior to finalizing the divorce. Creditors will contact the name on the debt even if #2 is supposed to be responsible. Many divorcee’s credit is ruined by an ex that misses payments or refuses to pay even though it states the debt is theirs. Get confirmation of transfer before finalizing the divorce.

Who pays for divorce?

The myth is that the one filing for divorce pays but that is simply not true. Each spouse is responsible for their own representation. Depending on which type of divorce you plan to begin, the cost varies quite a bit. With mediation, you will split the cost of a mutually decided on mediator between both spouses. Some divorce attorneys have a flat fee for an uncontested divorce but others can charge put to $1000 per hour with a retainer to even start the paperwork.

How are finances and debts split?

Financial divisions vary depending on which state you reside. States are either an equal distribution state or a community property state. Equal Distribution states divide based on a judgement of fairness under the circumstances of each case, no necessary equal. It takes into consideration the percentage of income each makes, child care/support, and other expenses. Here is the most recent list of marital property division by state, remember these can change so verify with your state.

Community Property States aim for a 50/50 division of all assets and debts. You can find the list of Community Property States as of 5/202 here.

What is a fair divorce settlement?

Fair settlements vary widely in equal distribution states.

Example 1: Both spouses with similar incomes and no children or major assets will likely split 50/50.

Example 2: Long term marriage with spouse 1 making 2/3’s of the income and no children may split 50/50 but include spousal support for a few years to help spouse 2 increase income.

Example 3: Medium term marriage with spouse 1 making 100% income, 2 small kids, and stay at home mom. Joint custody may be awarding with Mom being the custodial parent. Child support arranged and spousal support given for a specific term to allow Mom to gain meaningful employment.

What to consider when kids are involved in divorce?

  • Where will the kids live primarily?
  • Will they need to transfer schools? Transportation?
  • Who will provide their health insurance?
  • Dividing holidays and school breaks
  • Who will pay for college and extracurriculars?
  • Are there any conflicts between parent and child?
  • Can you coparent & agree on discipline?
  • Can both of you keep bad thoughts of ex from kids?
Grey Divorce-put the kids 1st

What are mistakes I need to avoid in divorce?

There are many, many mistakes you can make when going through grey divorce. The very first one that I personally made was not getting good representation. Way back in the day before everyone was Googling, I let my ex “help me” by sharing the lawyer and he paid. I now know that I was not fairly represented but I did not have any money and I was in shock from the whole thing.

That is the second mistake I made, being too emotional to things clearly. I can barely remember what was going on because I was completely shut down. You should seek a therapist even if you are not in the same amount of shock like I was. Emotions will come and when they do you need someone who is clear headed and impartial to help you sort out things. Get a therapist!

Next, I would say is getting accurate numbers. Don’t try to hide assets or fudge the numbers and don’t trust numbers you cannot verify. Even the best people get a little twisty when it comes to money. Don’t try to get revenge and take it all, but also you should know what kind of budget you will need going forward to make ends meet! It is unlikely that the ex is concerned about that.

From. the beginning, you MUST work very hard to avoid putting the kids in the middle. Watch what you say when the kids are around. Trust me, little ears hear far more than you thing so watch out. Also, do not ask the kids to run messages or pass money to the ex. Both of these activities causes stress on the kids.

And lastly, follow the divorce decree. Do not try to punish the ex or play games by not honoring the agreement you made. You are better than that even if the ex is not. Rise above all of this and be the very best woman you can be. Do not react, follow friends suggestions for revenge, or make rash decisions. Take the time to make a plan for the next phase of life and then line up the things that you must do to get there.

Grey divorce:  steps to get over divorce
Grey Divorce:  Moving on After Divorce

Conclusion: Getting divorced is a major life event and should not be entered into lightly. Two perfectly sane people can turn into self centered monsters over night if you are not both very careful. The single most important thing I recommend is to be completely honest in the kindest way possible.

At some point, you loved each other so it was good once. Remember the good and try to navigate grey divorce as fairly for the kids and the two of you as possible. It is unlikely you will agree on everything, but if you can be civil and give and take on the issues the kids will benefit from mature parents who put more value on their family than themselves.

My prayers are for you! I hope this helps. Please let me know below any questions or things that I did not answer. This is a resource for YOU and all the other middle aged women who are dealing with grey divorce. As always, kiss the ones you love, be thankful for what you have (even during divorce), and focus on who you are!

–Terri

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