Divorce After 50: The Phenomenon of Gray Divorce

Divorce After 50: The Phenomenon of Gray Divorce

Divorce After 50: The Phenomenon of Gray Divorce

As people live longer, and more independently, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a trend of rising divorce rates for Americans older than 50.

It used to be that once a couple passed several decades together, they were in it until the end. Not so anymore. Today, a marriage that lasts 20 years can be considered a success, even if it ends and the parties go their separate ways.

The trend of divorcing after age 50, known as Gray Divorce, has been growing for some time now. While Americans are divorcing less than they did in the 1980s and 1990s, (in fact, overall divorce rates are at a 40-year low!), the number of people ending marriages after age 50 has doubled since 1990, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Fully, one-quarter of all American divorces today involve couples older than 50!!

Since May is Older Americans Month, I thought it a perfect time to explore this trend of Gray Divorce, which Transitions Legal has particular expertise in.

Of course, it’s never easy to dissolve a marriage, no less one that has existed for decades! You’ve accumulated stuff, emotions, relationships, and property, and dismantling that union takes time and effort.

In a Collaborative Divorce, therapists and other professionals can help you work through any issues or feelings that arise. They may also make recommendations for your adult children, should they need or want to work through their own feelings about your breakup.

One of the biggest issues facing Gray Divorce is the financial impact of what can be considerable assets accumulated over time. The older a couple is, the more time they’ve had to save for retirement, buy property, acquire investments, and more. Financial experts can help inventory the marital assets and guide the equitable division based on a variety of factors.

While it can be a rude awakening to divorce after decades of marriage and bring all the expected loneliness and sadness that a split can generate, it’s not all bad when divorcing later in life. Here are some ways to see a silver lining in your split.

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You’ve likely had a good run at marriage and some happy memories to boot. Celebrate that! And now you have plenty of time for a Part 2.
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You’re not too old to start fresh. What have you always wanted to do? Where have you wanted to live? Now is the time to do it all!
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You likely have enough assets to allow yourself some time and space to pursue new interests and new people.
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You have a chance to get to know yourself again. Everything from here on out is focused on you – your interests, talents, and more. Enjoy!!
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You get to redefine who you are, and who you want to be. Shed your former roles, and explore who you might become. Introduce that person to the world.

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A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

A conversation with Michelle Sarao: How to organize homes and lives after a divorce

In the Collaborative Divorce process, we build a team of professionals who can guide the divorce process in a fluid manner. Recently, I met a woman whose business fits so perfectly into this idea of a divorce team.

Michelle Sarao, through her business Divorce Rx, helps divorcing people organize their homes and their lives. Based in New York, Michelle recognizes that a divorce is a complete upheaval of a person’s life – emotional as well as physical.

Michelle Sarao

What better time than that to welcome an organizer into the midst of the unraveling, and let her guide you to a more methodical approach to the separation and rebuilding?

This type of organizing can focus on the divorcing people – helping them rearrange their physical space or divide up their shared belongings. It can also help the newly single adults get organized in their new life – manage their children’s schedules, learn how to be focused in managing all the activities and responsibilities as a solo parent.

Basically, Michelle helps people prevent the logistics of their life from falling through the cracks.

“When you are going through a divorce, the first thing you do is start assembling your team,” says Michelle. “Financial, legal, mental health, parenting coordinator, divorce coach. But then the physical space and coordination of what happens with your children, and the transition from one household to two, those details and ideas can slip through the cracks. That is where I felt there was a need to step in.”

Every situation has a unique imprint, says Michelle. She meets clients where they are, looking at what will be most helpful in this moment, right now, taking it one step at a time. A divorce can create confusion and stasis – she helps people move forward, one step at a time.

As an entrepreneur myself, I felt this concept was brilliant and definitely needed! In speaking with Michelle, I thought it would be helpful to gather some of her best tips in this blog to share with people contemplating divorce – or who have already been through one but still feel a sense of disorganization. Here’s what Michelle has to say:

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Regarding your physical space, a divorce begins with dividing your things. “Oftentimes, even in the most amicable divorces, people are emotionally tied to their stuff,” she says. “You’re already experiencing loss. No matter what you’re feeling about the divorce, it’s a loss. People have a hard time letting go of things. To have someone work with you and your soon to be ex-spouse as a neutral party to help divide things can be helpful, to help you stay on track.”

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Dividing up physical belongings can stall a divorce – and it’s senseless to pay lawyer fees to have them sit in your home while you divvy things up.

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Whether moving to a new space or staying in your current space, going through what you have and purging can be cleansing.

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Get rid of the storage unit idea. Not only is it another expense, it’s the place people put things and forget about them. You will eventually have to go through it all – and likely discard most of it – so why not do it now?

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If you just can’t part with goods but you don’t want to go through everything, label your boxes and mark your calendar for three or five months later to actually go through the items.

Michelle Sarao

Organizing is not just for physical items, Michelle says. It’s important for financial documents as well as for calendaring.

“It’s often the women who have no idea where the financial stuff is that they’re asked to bring into the lawyers,” she notes. “They’re paralyzed; they don’t even know how to find it or what questions to ask.”

While divorce coaches can help with that part of the process, Michelle can support clients through it as well.

“The biggest thing I do with people is just have a plan that is realistic and broken into manageable steps.” Once someone leaves the marital home, there is empty space to fill. That’s part two of Michelle’s work. She comes in to help the person who stays rearrange the furniture and fill the space – and she helps the person who left fill the new space where they will start their new life. “If you were not the one who wanted the divorce, it smacks you in the face when you see the couch is gone,” she says. “It’s a reminder of your loss. There are a lot of physical empty spaces – a whole closet that’s empty, drawers where silverware has been taken, empty walls. I help that person reimagine and arrange what you have before buying new things.” It’s better to move around what you do have and live with it for a few months than quickly buy new items, she says. For the person leaving, “talking it through is the first step,” Michelle says. “Then, it’s about finding resources – realtors, designers, etc.”

A member of the National Association of Productivity and Organization and of the National Association of Divorce Professionals, Michelle has resources far and wide.

Divorcing couples don’t realize all the details of this split when they embark on it. As granular as the photo albums and shared photographs – who wants to let go of their baby’s earliest pictures, or that family vacation they took to Hawaii?

Michelle Sarao

Michelle finds solutions. “Both parents want all the pictures. I have someone who is fantastic and will scan the pics and set them up for both parents,” she says.

A divorce is a transition from one stage of life to the next, but it’s not without heartache and emotion, and those very heavy phases can cloud judgment, obscure clarity. Michelle works with people at a vulnerable time to make the details easier – and less painful.

“There are areas of life you might not have thought of – who has the kids’ passports, can you get a second passport, do the children have toothbrushes at both houses? You don’t know what you don’t know,” she says. “I tell you what’s coming, I can help you get prepared, save time and money, relax and exhale.”

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Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

Co-Parenting vs. Parallel Parenting – Which Is Best?

I am really big on the idea of co-parenting and I use that word a lot as I’m sure other family law attorneys do.

But recently, a Friend Of The Court referee told me that not everyone can co-parent and it is fine to “parallel” parent. This got me thinking about my word choice and what it means to me.

When I use the word “co-parenting,” my intention is that parents can get along for the purpose of their children – not that they do everything the same. 

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There should be a level of cooperation between parents, whether that means flexibility so children can attend special events with the other parent on one parent’s parenting time, or agreeing on extracurricular activities.

Those are some examples of quality co-parenting. Others might include striving to have some of the same house rules – the same bedtime or the same ideas about food and snacks. Of course, it’s unlikely that divorced parents are going to do things together or even necessarily in the same way.

But similar overall structure for your kids is important because it sends a message of consistency. I know this is hard. In a divorce, obviously, you ended your marriage because it no longer worked. You did not want to be together. Perhaps you could not get along.

So how can anyone expect divorced parents to be in agreement on how to raise their children?

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The thing is, all of this is a choice. We choose to divorce, and we chose to become parents. We do not stop being parents when the marriage ends, and it is wholly unfair to the children – and sometimes even damaging – to throw innocent children into the chaos of emotional decisions and acting out by adults who are trying to start over. I really don’t think it’s asking too much to have some meeting of the minds of what children need.

Now I am going to contradict everything written above to acknowledge that there is also a school of thought that parents are never going to get along, even when they are married. They will always do different things with their children, even when they stay together and remain in a loving relationship.

They might teach their kids different things – one might do homework with them in the morning while one leans toward evening. Over the past year, I’ve seen parents who have different perspectives on COVID-related questions – one parent thinks it’s ok to have a pod of friends over or that the child plays with outside, but the other parent does not believe that’s wise.

Frankly, in neither situation might the children be harmed, but the risk may go beyond the children to the other parent, grandparents or other caregivers who also spend time with the children. It becomes complicated during these interesting times.

Generally, even when parents don’t agree, when they engage in what is called parallel parenting, they still do what they believe is in their children’s best interests. It is more difficult to look beyond their own inner circle.

I just believe the ideal to strive for is co-parenting. Then that “inner circle,” is more inclusive and encompassing, and does consider the effect their decision may have on the other parent and his ability to parent their children.

In the end, we must remember that even if you stayed married to the other parent, you would not have been in complete unison. We have different styles. A relationship is comprised of two individual people who bring different perspectives and inclinations to the partnership.

It can be as simple as how you give a child a bath. One parent lets the child wash his hair himself while the other parent sees it as great bonding time and massages the shampoo into the child’s hair. Either way, the child still gets clean; and each parent has their own individual experience building their own relationship with the child.

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An American administration overflowing with women

An American administration overflowing with women

An American administration overflowing with women

President Joe Biden has appointed more women to his Administration than any that came before him. And, with a female Vice President, he seems to be sending an important message to the American populace.

That message is that women matter, and women can and should lead. I wholeheartedly agree!!

As history has kept women in neat little boxes and domestic roles, what were we really afraid of? The time has come to reckon with this notion of gender divide and do away with it once and for all.

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

The right person for the job is the right person for the job, regardless of superficial details like gender, race, sexual orientation, politics or economic origin.

President Biden has nominated 12 women for Cabinet and Cabinet-level positions, including eight women of color. He also published The Biden Agenda for Women, which states as a priority, among other, full inclusion of and equality for women.

“Women — particularly women of color — have never had a fair shot to get ahead in this country,” says the President’s agenda. “Today, too many women are struggling to make ends meet and support their families, and are worried about the economic future for their children. This was true before the COVID-19 crisis, but the current global health crisis has exacerbated these realities for women.”

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Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

It goes on to explain:

“For Biden, it’s a simple proposition: his daughter is entitled to the same rights and opportunities as his sons. He believes every issue is a women’s issue — health care, the economy, education, national security — but women are also uniquely and disproportionately impacted by many policies. As President, Biden will pursue an aggressive and comprehensive plan to further women’s economic and physical security and ensure that women can fully exercise their civil rights.”

We must ask ourselves as Americans why we would oppose such basic ideas as equal access and full opportunity.

What, exactly, makes a woman incapable of something when compared with a man? What has been so threatening about women in leadership positions?

To answer these questions fully, we must finally do away with the notion that if one person ascends the ladder of success, that does not mean that another person is pushed further down the rungs. There can be success for all people, equally and simultaneously. Until men embrace that truth, we won’t emerge onto a new landscape that is fully equitable and inclusive. The time is now to change this once and for all!!

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Photo by René DeAnda on Unsplash

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An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

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When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, we lost a true legal leader. She sat on the federal bench for 25 years and in 1993, became the second woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, RBG as she was affectionately known, advocated for gender equality, women’s interests and civil rights. She was truly a pioneer.

A founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she once said, “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”

But RBG wasn’t just an advocate for women’s rights. She was an advocate for the rights of all people, and it is through that lens that her legacy is perhaps most powerful.

One of her early landmark cases was actually on behalf of a father who was denied Social Security survivor benefits after his wife died. She argued that gender distinctions were inherently unfair – in both directions – and successfully changed the law’s interpretation of and application to gender roles within families.

By being a strong voice, following her instincts and believing that she could contribute something that was missing from the legal sphere, RBG became an American icon. But why does that mean we need women on the Supreme Court?

It’s an easy question and one that many Americans may not relate to, as it feels so far from our daily lives. But it is crucial to understand how trailblazing women change the way our daily lives can be, when they dare to speak up, speak out and stand up for equal access and rights for women.

Women justices, chief justices and majority opinion authors in our nation’s courts can build large coalitions and share different, needed perspectives on legal issues. Studies reveal that women often foster more collaborative, cooperative environments than men. In a judicial context, this leads to greater consensus and moderation.

Justice Ginsburg wanted more women on our nation’s highest Court. In 2015, she spoke at Georgetown University and said she would not be satisfied until the Supreme Court featured nine female justices. She explained that no one questioned when nine men sat on the court. That answer emboldened Americans.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Legal scholars say that women bring different perspectives to court conversations. Although women were considered for the Supreme Court as early as 1930, it took until 1981 when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to fill a Supreme Court seat. She was the only one until RBG joined her in 1993.

It’s not specifically “female” things that women bring to legal considerations. It’s the difference of voice and perspective and their unique experiences that need to influence decisions affecting the entire nation.

It shouldn’t be a question as to what gender decides law. If all people are bound by the law, then all people should have a voice in determining the details of that law. It seems pretty simple to me!

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