Overall, the divorce rate has declined significantly since the 1990s. There are many theories as to why. But the common denominator seems to be that today’s couples get married because they want to, and not because they feel like they have to.
The over-50 demographic has bucked this trend, sparking a phenomenon known as gray divorce. Marriage dissolution rates in this age group have doubled since 1990.
Longer lifespans may have something to do with the change. Thirty years is a long time for a fifty-something person to remain in a bad marriage. Moreover, divorce recently hit another all-time high in terms of moral acceptability. More people, including people over fifty, now see marriage dissolution as a viable alternative.
Almost any divorce has severe emotional and financial consequences for everyone involved. Gray divorce is no different. However, the issues are a bit more complex than they are in other age groups.
Emotional Issues in a Virginia Gray Divorce
Many older couples believe they are immune to emotional issues involving children if they have no minor children, but that may not be true. That’s usually not true. Minor children, especially young children, can be quite resilient. Over time, they usually adjust to divorce pretty well.
Adult children are different, as adults are less emotionally resilient than children. Moreover, many adults have lived a lifetime of happy family memories. This emotional backdrop is hard to ignore.
So, there are usually emotional child-related issues in a gray divorce. These issues often come into play during events like weddings and graduations. What should be a joyful occasion for everyone involved sometimes deteriorates into an emotional chess match. Instead of focusing on the event, hosts spend their time ensuring that Dad and his new wife do not come into close contact with Mom and her new boyfriend.
There may be legal child custody issues as well. Because of the aforementioned emotional background, some adult children blame one of their parents for the divorce, and in some cases, may cut off contact between a grandparent and grandchild. If that happens, Virginia grandparents may have some legal recourse, but must meet very high standards to have access to a child over the parents’ objection.
Property Division Issues in a Fairfax Gray Divorce
Many gray divorces involve complex property division issues. Many times, the marriage has lasted several decades. As a result, commingled property may be a concern. Before property can be divided, it must first be classified. That’s difficult to do in some situations. For example, husband might have used money from his paycheck (marital property) to pay off his student loans (non-marital debt), leaving him personally debt-free, but leaving the parties with fewer assets to divide.
Home equity is sometimes an issue as well. A sale and division of proceeds may not be a good idea, for financial and/or emotional reasons. But if the property usually has substantial equity, some arrangements must be made to give both parties their fair share. An owelty lien may solve this dilemma.
Assume the house has $50,000 in equity when Husband and Wife divorce. If the judge awards the house to Husband, wife might receive a $25,000 lien. When Husband sells the house later, the lien must be paid. Or, if Wife needs money now, she might receive a greater share of marital property or more alimony in exchange for a smaller home equity share.
Connect With an Experienced Lawyer
Divorce over fifty creates a whole new set of legal and emotional dilemmas. For a free consultation with an experienced divorce attorney in Northern Virginia, contact Duff & Kronfeld, P.C. at (703) 591-7475.