Why 'gray divorce' can be financially devastating

Divorce among people over 50 (which carries the unfortunate moniker "gray divorce") has been increasing. It might seem like older couples would typically have more assets to split than younger ones, and would be more likely to land on their feet financially. However, divorce in later years can often be financially devastating -- particularly for women.

One sociology professor who has been studying the phenomenon of gray divorce says that women who divorce after 50 see their standard of living drop by 45%. That's about twice as much as for younger divorcees. Meanwhile, men who divorce after 50 have a 21% drop in their standard of living.

Climbing back up to their married standard of living is typically more difficult for older people than younger ones. The professor says, "There is no appreciable recovery in standard of living." Older people have fewer earning years ahead of them to make up for the assets and income they lose in divorce.

Older women, in particular, often find it difficult to get back into the workforce or get a job that supports them in the style they have become used to. They often have lost critical career-building years raising a family. Another study by the same professor and her colleagues in 2017 found that women over 63 who had been through a gray divorce had a higher poverty rate than anyone else that age -- 27%.

Research has found that the best way to recover financially after a gray divorce is to remarry -- or at least find a new partner. However, older people take longer to recover emotionally as well as financially from divorce.

You can't always count on finding someone else to live out your later years with -- and you may not want to. That's why it's essential for those divorcing after 50 to work toward a division of property and spousal support agreement that will let them live comfortably as they rebuild their lives. An experienced family law attorney can help you achieve that goal.

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