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.

gray divorce

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.

Z
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.
Z
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!
Z
You likely have enough assets to allow yourself some time and space to pursue new interests and new people.
Z
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!!
Z
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.

Read more Gray Divorce posts

Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

This week, the United States inaugurates a new President, with a major change in Administration after a tumultuous election season. There are many reasons why change can be good, and in this blog, I’d like to focus on how the new American presidency might affect divorce, marriage and the way people get along in our nation.

travel work

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We know that Americans are deeply divided. If the last year showed us anything, it’s that we may all be united by citizenship, but we remain in opposition to one another in ideology, belief, practice, and politics.

Whether America can survive as a functioning democracy remains to be seen. More than 8 million people are excited this week about Joe Biden becoming our next U.S. President. And yet, 7 million people voted to retain Donald Trump for another term.

That’s a big gap.

What lies ahead for our nation depends on whether we can find a way for ALL Americans to believe in the possibility of America once again. Can we come together in shared values and vision?

After the November election, it felt like some of the rampant divisiveness calmed a little. I hope that the Biden Administration gives us time to try to readjust the scales, get back into balance.

Some people who are more progressive, or did not want to retain Donald Trump, but who may not quite be on the Biden bandwagon, may have expectations for what lies ahead. Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we must be careful to hold realistic expectations for what is possible.

A President is ONE human trying to make decisions on behalf of one of the largest nations in the world, populated by so many varieties of people. It is not an easy job for anyone, and I have yet to see a candidate who speaks and moves for ALL the people.

There is only so much that can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a new presidency. We must remember that before we jump to critique or condemn.
travel work

Over the last year, due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve taken to digital communication channels as our lifeline.

We’ve debated and discussed, blocked and welcomed. We’ve argued over what is best for our people, what is the way forward.

As a divorce lawyer, I look at the lessons we are beginning to pull from the last year, and the last four years, and the new presidency ahead, and I think, there is advice in all this for marriages and relationships. Here is what I have to offer:

  1. Just like a President can only do so much in the first 100 days of an Administration, so too a relationship can only withstand so much effort and energy in its early days.
  2. We must have realistic expectations for every relationship – and for the humans in those relationships.
  3. We are, as a species, easily disappointed, and easily excited. The healthiest place is to live in between those extremes.
  4. We cannot put all our hope into one person to lead us forward. Whether a President, or a spouse/partner.
  5. That said, we must respect the expertise of our leaders. For a marital relationship, that means take advice from those who’ve endured through decades – don’t think you know better than they do how to make a marriage work! (I’m thinking of all the Dr. Fauci haters who think they know how to handle a pandemic better.)
  6. There is no perfect partner. Only you can strive to be the best you can be and forgive the faults of your partner. (We should remember this when President Biden isn’t perfect. He can’t be. He’s human. He’ll do things we won’t agree with, but that doesn’t make his Administration evil.)
  7. Keep your expectations in check, stay realistic, and remember there is no perfect system.

Whether it’s a marriage or a political position, or the leader of the free world, we’re all doing the best we can. Go into it with this perspective – knowing that there will be disappointments, arguments, and reasons to celebrate.

Read more Off Topic posts

This Is What It’s Like to Work with a Divorce Lawyer

This Is What It’s Like to Work with a Divorce Lawyer

This Is What It’s Like to Work with a Divorce Lawyer

Some clients might wonder what to expect when working with a divorce lawyer. While your case is on your mind 24/7, your divorce lawyer has other cases simultaneously, so it’s helpful to know how the interactions will flow once you choose the lawyer you want to work with.

Step 1: Introductory Meeting

Here, you will get to know one another and learn about the lawyer’s approach to divorce. A good lawyer should offer a picture of how often and by what methods you’ll be in touch.

What if you feel an urgency arise, or have questions?

Is email the best method of communication?

How quickly will the lawyer respond?

What if it’s over a weekend or holiday?

It’s good to establish parameters up front, so you know what to expect when you work with a divorce lawyer.

Step 2: Gathering Information

It takes time to build a legal case. There will be a lengthy period during which your lawyer will ask for information, paperwork, evidence, and other resources to help build your case.

The more quickly you can gather materials, the more quickly your case will be built. That said, remember that your attorney has many clients and cases, and yours is in the queue!

A Michigan divorce can take anywhere from six months to years. Nothing happens overnight, especially when the courts are involved, but your lawyer should give you an estimate of the time frame for building your case and how quickly he or she can process the information you provide.

travel work

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

If your lawyer has to request documents from the other side, then the flow will depend on how quickly they respond and provide the requested information.

Delays can arise – and they are not always within your control or your attorney’s. Try to be patient, even though the case is always on your mind, with questions about how it will unfold.

Step 3: Negotiation

You may have a series of meetings with your lawyer, your soon-to-be ex and their lawyer. These require scheduling four people’s calendars, which can be cumbersome. Again, be patient as it unfolds.

In the negotiation phase, there may be issues to discuss or debate, and there may be need for further information-gathering or fact-finding. Ask your lawyer for estimates of how much time each phase will take, so you have realistic expectations every step of the way!

Time estimates often change once we dive into the details, as we know more about the type of case it is becoming.

Step 4: Finalizing

Once everything has been laid out and agreed to, finalizing your divorce still takes time. Factors can include preparing a Settlement Agreement and Judgment of Divorce with language agreeable to both sides as well as the judge’s availability to approve the Judgment and make the divorce final.

Every step of the way during your divorce, you may be eager to hear back from your attorney on progress and next steps. Divorce lawyers are as eager as their clients to complete the case to everyone’s satisfaction!

If you’re waiting to hear from your lawyer and there is no email or return call, try to be patient. It’s hard, but sometimes they are waiting for response from the other side, or confirmation from the court, and they don’t want to waste your time with empty information.

The hallmark of a good lawyer is open and flowing communication with clients. Trust that your attorney will get back to you as soon as new information becomes available!

travel work

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm 

Every divorce client feels a sense of urgency to get their case done and decided. It will happen; waiting is the hardest part.

Michigan divorces take a minimum of 6 months to complete. Knowing that is crucial to taking a deep breath and letting the process happen as it should.

Read more Family Law posts

How to Negotiate in a Divorce

How to Negotiate in a Divorce

How to Negotiate in a Divorce

There is no one outcome or way to negotiate for a divorce case, because every case is as different as the people pursuing the divorce.

With that in mind, we must consider a variety of details when we negotiate the terms of a divorce. Here are some things to think about when you’re negotiating your divorce:

Z
Identify what is important to you.
Z
Consider what might be important to your spouse.
Z
Be willing to give up something to get something else.

I remember a great example in the book How To Get to Yes. People were in a negotiation, arguing over an orange.

negotiate

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

Once they started talking, they realized one person required the skin and the other person required the pulp, so they reached resolution by hearing what the other person needed and finding a way to make it work for both of them. One person took the outside of the orange, the other took the inside, and they settled their case.

That’s how we negotiate – find ways to satisfy all needs, whenever possible.

Understanding my client’s needs, and listening to determine his or her spouse’s needs, is a key strategy I use when negotiating on behalf of my client.

People can mask hurt and anger in wanting to claim items. Take emotion out of your negotiation and think about what is FAIR.

Recently, I was involved in a negotiation where my client, who was extremely hurt by her husband’s decision to divorce, was steadfast in her desire to retain not only her premarital retirement, but also all of the growth in the account.

Her husband took the opposite position, claiming the growth on the premarital monies was also a marital asset. There were legal arguments that could support both parties.

At the same time, my client had an interest in a business. The business partnership was fraught with its own difficulties, and the husband knew all about it. It was questionable whether the business had any actual value.

negotiate

Photo by Darío Martínez-Batlle on Unsplash

I asked my client: is it worth forgoing the growth on your premarital account to avoid digging into the partnership, and keep your business intact?

In a divorce negotiation, if one spouse owns a business, you could go down a very expensive road of business valuation and end up having to give a percentage of profits, revenues or equity to an ex-spouse.

Or, you could discover that the cost of the valuation, emotionally and financially, was not worth it.

What would you give up to avoid such a cumbersome, costly process?

Certain big issues tend to be sticking points, so think about your approach before entering into negotiations.

Issues like:

Z
The house – who keeps it, the value of the house, and how we determine its value (market analysis or appraisal?)
Z
The children – custody and parenting time
Z
Child support – In-kind compensation (perks), travel miles as income, uncompensated work, family expenses covered by a business
Z
Valuations – of a business, a pension
Z
Spousal support – should it be paid, how much and for how long
Z
Property division – how to divide property, how to determine what is premarital or separate property
Before you embark on a divorce, have a heart-to-heart with yourself to determine what you’re willing to give up or compromise on, so your negotiations can go more smoothly.

No one gets everything they want; work toward achieving an optimal outcome for yourself and one you can live with that is fair for your spouse.

Read more Family Law posts

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

Processing Divorce in Court during COVID… On Zoom?

It’s not news that we are in extraordinary times, with divorce court cases being held over video chat platforms like Zoom. I’ve been wondering how this experience is for clients who, for the time being, don’t have to stand in front of a judge in a hushed courtroom.

How do they hear things differently?

How is the feeling different – better or worse?

And is the judge’s ruling in a divorce case as effective from afar?

The Difference Is Big

It’s one thing to stand in the courtroom in front of a judge wearing a robe with deputies standing nearby. The formal and reserved ambience of the courtroom does not exist in a virtual experience.

Divorce on zoom
Does that mean the messages are not as strong or impactful?

From the safety of home, we are more relaxed. When a judge admonishes a client for improper behavior in a virtual hearing, is it perceived as severely?

Remote Cases Affect All Parties

Divorce on zoom

Photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash

From a lawyer’s perspective, preparing for an evidentiary hearing and having to do a trial by Zoom is also different. We call witnesses, and they respond from their own homes or offices.

Are they reading information they would not otherwise be able to refer to if in person?

Are they texting a friend or the Jameson Law firm for help?

Body Language Is Impossible to Read in Remote Cases

The judge may hear things differently, too, unable to read the body language or pick up on certain inferences made by those present in a courtroom.

Often in family court, judges will make comments from the bench to address the parties, to send a message. I wonder, is that message as powerful while the party is sitting in an easy chair in his living room, listening without really being present?

Consider this Case Study

Divorce on zoom
As an example, not long after we were all required to stay-safe-at-home, a party filed a motion to prevent the other parent from traveling out of the country with their children – when travel out of the country was really not possible due to pandemic limitations on travel. We still don’t know when it will be possible to travel beyond our borders.

The judge looked at both parties on the virtual hearing and said, “You have to choose your battles. This is not an emergency. Nobody is going anywhere right now, so come back to me if there really is an urgency.”

The co-parents were arguing about what was essentially an irrelevant point. The judge tried to emphasize this point sternly, but I have to say, I don’t think the point sticks as much with clients when we’re relegated to video hearings.

Isn’t It Good to Revere the Judge?

In the courtroom, when a judge makes a comment from the bench, and an order is entered into the court docket, it’s a serious thing. You can feel the gravity of the situation when you’re standing there, in the windowless courtroom, with the judge seated higher than everyone, and no one else utters a word.

You stand, out of respect for the judge, and wait for him or her to respond to your motion. And what the judge says, goes.

Period.

Let’s Get Serious

I’m convinced that while the order stands and is as effective and imperative during this time as any other time, the parties don’t feel the gravity of the situation in the same way.

There is one upside to this new normal, though. In divorce cases where abuse or violence is present, not having to show up in the same physical space as your abuser is a relief for clients seeking freedom and safety from domestic abuse.

In these situations, staying in your own home while the abuser remains in another space is a gift for the victim. However, I’m not sure the abuser receives the severity of the proceedings when the judge is on a screen.

Divorce on zoom

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Does the Location of Your Divorce Case Matter?

The takeaway from all of this is that if you were planning to divorce, think about how the inability to appear in a physical courtroom will help or hinder your case.

There are non-court-based options for divorce, of course, like Collaborative Divorce or Mediation – which might be better alternatives.

If you’re looking for a divorce lawyer at this time, you might want to consider talking with a lawyer who is familiar with and practices both the court-based, litigation model and is specially trained as a mediator or Collaborative attorney – someone like me!

After all, is it worth litigating if you’re not appearing in front of a judge?

Read more about Family Law