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Special considerations for a “gray divorce”


A gray divorce can be harder on an older couple because there is less time (or no time) to recover financially.

Divorces are becoming more common among older people-so common that these separations are termed “gray divorces.” There are some special considerations that apply to these gray divorces that would not necessarily apply when a younger couple divorces in Tennessee.

Photo of Jeffrey H. Jones

How to handle issues with the children

Couples with children younger than 18 years old tend to have parenting plans and other legal obligations to fall back on. However, co-parenting in a gray divorce is more of a goodwill effort. That said, many of the same recommendations apply no matter how old the children are. For example, it is a good idea to avoid bad-mouthing the other parent in front of the children because that could backfire. At the very least, it makes the children feel put in the middle and like they have to take sides.

Child issues worth discussing include if parents are still comfortable spending holidays together and if not, what solutions exist, and how, when and where to explain the divorce to the children.

How to deal with finances

Divorce can deal a serious blow to couples of any age, but older ones are at higher risk to feel its sting for several reasons. Older people may be retired or about to retire, they may have never worked or they have built up substantial retirement savings that may wholly or partially now go to their spouse. There is also the fact that they could have to move and pay for a household out of a single income that keeps growing smaller after retirement.

In fact, if one spouse worked for the entirety of the marriage while the other stayed at home, the earning spouse may suddenly be faced with having to pay alimony as well as expenses for two households.

The spouses should also think about health care and how they might pay for future medical expenses.

How to change estate planning

Another concern is how a person’s estate planning goals might change. There may no longer be a house to leave to the children, for example, and a spouse who was previously named to receive life insurance proceeds and retirement plan proceeds may need to be taken off as a beneficiary. Spouses could find themselves scrambling to settle on someone who knows their medical wishes in the case they are unable to do so themselves.

Divorcing when you are older in Tennessee brings with it the promise of a fresh start, but there can be complicated and stressful steps on the road there. Meeting with a lawyer can provide clarity and possibly a sense of empowerment.

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