The term gray divorce is somewhat new, but it describes something that’s fairly common among many Americans. A gray divorce is a separation of spouses that happens later in life, namely in an individual’s 60s or 70s. This somewhat playful term has marked a unique trend of divorce rates going down among younger demographics while increasing among people entering their golden years.

Divorcing at any age has its own fair share of complications; however, anyone with several decades of a relationship behind them will have a much different kind of divorce than those with young children or even those in mid-life. One unique issue with later-in-life separation is how a gray divorce could affect retirement plans, stocks and bonds, and other shared assets. Estate planning will also likely need to be reconsidered, as distribution to heirs will likely change. These factors could affect your lifelong financial goals as well as future investments.

What Happens to Your Retirement Benefits in a Gray Divorce?

One of the hardest hit financial areas of a gray divorce will likely be in someone’s retirement benefits. Regardless of whether retirement has happened or is on the horizon, it is likely that after a gray divorce, retirement benefits will be halved. Much of this can be attested to the general vagueness of many retirement plans when discussing specific division decrees. However, if a spouse worked outside the home and has their own retirement or savings plan, it could impact the outcome of a divorce settlement. A partner who stayed at home may be entitled to half of the benefits of their partner. However, if both partners worked and were able to establish some kind of retirement plan, then they may both leave with their benefits intact.

When benefits are being split, the split doesn’t necessarily have to be 50/50. For instance, if a judge orders a 401(k) plan to be split, there can be arguments regarding whether what’s being split is what was accrued during the marriage or the entire account itself. All of it could be taxable as well. You could end up needing to choose between division of properties or settling for alimony, which is tax deductible.

Does a Gray Divorce Affect How Alimony Is Handled?

Alimony is one of the most typical agreements between young-to-midlife couples who get a divorce. Its goal is to ensure equal ability to financially recover from divorce and get back on their feet. Because of this, alimony typically has an end date by which alimony payments cease. It can be a set date or set up to cease once both former spouses can find work and living situations that allow them the ability to fend for themselves financially. Post nuptials might have changed this, so discuss this with your attorney.

However, in a gray divorce, both spouses may have already retired from working life – or may soon do so. Depending on the situation, alimony could become a monthly payment one partner makes to the other for the rest of their life. While it is tax deductible, it could impact a person’s stability, whether they expect to receive it or give it. Regardless, the couple’s finances will be affected. If you’re going through a gray divorce, it’s crucial to contact an experienced Chicago divorce attorney to protect the life you’ve built.

What Other Financial Impacts Will a Gray Divorce Have on My Life?

There are some other financial impacts a gray divorce can leave on an individual. Getting divorced later in life means there will be considerably less time to recover financially from the impact of a divorce. In some situations, a person may have already retired and can’t work to get back important funds. They might also have to take on additional debts to cover divorce costs, leaving children or other loved ones with less inheritance and assets.

Similarly, when splitting things like retirement funds, people going through such a divorce will have far less money to cover the quality of life they may have been planning for in retirement. It can also be emotionally exhausting to have the financial stress of wondering if your life’s quality will decrease, on top of having the emotional pain of going through a divorce.

What Are Ways You Can Mitigate the Frustrations of a Gray Divorce?

The most important way to protect your assets and financial future during a gray divorce is to get the proper legal representation and divorce attorney to help you navigate the variety of unique problems that can occur while getting a gray divorce. Similarly, finding ways to divorce civilly and spend as little time in court as possible can greatly minimize legal fees and other expensive processes.

This also offers an important reminder that if you are getting married, it is just as important to have individual accounts for personal funds and savings as it is to have a joint shared account for your life together. Prenuptials are also becoming much more common and can protect you at every stage of life.


Q: How Many Americans Get Divorced Each Year?

A: If you are getting divorced and feel frustrated or alone, it can’t be anything further from the case. Divorce in America is incredibly common, with an estimated 2,419,196 divorces happening in the U.S. each year.

Q: How Should You Inform Your Spouse You Want to Get a Gray Divorce?

A: Informing a spouse you want a divorce is difficult no matter the age, but asking for a divorce later in life can be even more difficult because of the full life you built together. If you are asking your spouse for a gray divorce, it’s important to be open and honest while still being civil and kind.

Q: What Is the Average Cost of Divorce in America?

A: On average, the median divorce cost in America is around $7,000, which accounts for legal and court fees as well as hiring an attorney. This number, however, can be much larger if a divorce is contested, meaning it will spend far more time in court and require far more working hours from your legal team.

Q: What Is the Average Age for Divorce in America?

A: As of recent data, the largest majority of divorcees in America are between the ages of 57 and 64, showing a trend toward later-life divorce. This makes up approximately 47% of all divorces in the country.

Chicago Gray Divorce Attorney

If you are going through a gray divorce, it can be frustrating not knowing what steps to take next. Fortunately, the Chicago family law attorneys at Stange Law Firm have the experience and compassion to direct your next steps. We can provide the expertise you need to protect your retirement, your assets, and your future. Contact us for a consultation today.