COVID-19/Coronavirus Update – We are Prepared to Serve You

Thanks for printing!  Don't forget to come back to Meriwether & Tharp, LLC for fresh articles!

Episode 124 - Gray Divorces & the Challenges They Present Image

05/20/2019 10:21 am

Researchers coined the term 'Gray Divorce' about a decade ago when they noticed a trend within a certain group of divorcing families. As a whole, the divorce rate has actually been declining over the years. But, the divorce rate for those over the age of 50 has almost doubled since the 90's. In this show, Leh and Todd define the term, 'Gray Divorce', and discuss the possible causes of this trend. Interestingly enough, the trend is not limited to any economic group. It centers around certain factors unrelated to household income or the education of the spouses. They go on to examine the challenges that arise in gray divorces that are specific to husbands and wives. They end the show with some unexpected surprises that spouses might encounter in gray divorces.

Transcript

Leh: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether. With me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp. And you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp show. Here you'll learn about divorce, family law, tips on how to save your marriage if it's in the middle of a crisis. And from time to time, even tips on how to take your marriage to the next level. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. Well, Todd.

Todd: That's me.

Leh: Notice that you're looking a little gray there.

Todd: Distinguished. That's what my mommy tells me.

Leh: Actually been great for a while.

Todd: Yeah, I definitely have a little more silver than I once did, but thank you for bringing that up. Since I know there's a point to you bringing up my gray, why don't you tell everyone what the show's about?

Leh: All right. Well today we're actually talking about something that, it's an interesting, like when you talk about, it's unfortunate. But it's interesting from a statistical standpoint. We're talking about what's called gray divorces. I've also heard the term silver or diamond splitters. But it's dealing with people going through a divorce that are, most of them are baby boomers over the age of 50. The gray divorce because they're graying hair. And I have gray hair, so I can say this. And they've usually been married between 20 and 30 years at least.

Leh: And what's fascinating again from a statistical standpoint, not from a marriage standpoint, and that's unfortunate. But the divorce rate as a whole has been declining for the last 10 20 years. Over 18%. But gray divorces has literally doubled since the 90s, and it's continuing to increase. I think in the nineties, only one in 10 people over the age of 50 were divorced. But currently, it's one in four over the age of 50 are divorced.

Leh: And what's also interesting, there's a lot of studies out there. There was this study called the gray divorce, a growing risk regardless of class or education. It was done by two sociologists at Bowling Green State University. Now this was done in 2009 when it wasn't even as bad as it is today. But they had said that it didn't matter class, regarding class or education. So educational, class whether the people made 250 or they made 75,000. Didn't matter. And it didn't matter about education level. It is just plain on the rise.

Leh: So we thought it'd be good to talk about this. Talk about what we see going on, what maybe what the cause of it is. Now we're not sociologists, so we're just going to put out there what we've read about it.

Todd: And experienced representing people who fall into that bracket. Yes. Some of the reasons why those people are deciding late in life at the end of what really is in many cases a long relationship and long marriage are deciding that it is time to unfortunately end the marriage.

Leh: So we're going to share those in the hopes that if you're listening and you're not falling in that category, that perhaps there can be some course changes in your marriage to avoid becoming a gray divorce later on. So we're going to talk about that and so we've got our anecdotal evidence. I don't know, it's not necessarily statistically driven, but it's definitely anecdotal from our experience. And then we're going to talk about the challenges that gray divorces have for both the husbands and the wives. Because there are specific challenges to these divorces, and they can present some challenges. And there's assumptions made in these devotions.

Todd: Did you just say there are challenges because there are challenges?

Leh: Yeah, I don't know why.

Todd: That's deep. We're going to do a whole show. Next week, join us for a divorce, which is divorcee in a divorce kind of way.

Leh: Yeah, I'm getting over a sickness.

Todd: That affected your mind?

Leh: It did. Well, it's an upper respiratory infection. I;m not getting enough oxygen to my brain.

Todd: Okay. All right, good.

Leh: I have a legitimate excuse.

Todd: Don't pass out because we're going to have to talk to the producer about mouth to mouth, or I don't know.

Leh: He's pointing at you.

Todd: All right. So let's start with reasons that we are reading about, seeing in terms of why there seems to be a rise in gray divorce. You touched on the first one a little bit, or I believe you were about to. That the stigma of divorce has changed. So when we're talking about baby boomers, when you go back a number of years, people still believed in the sanctity of marriage. Meaning that I'm married. And whether I'm happy or not, I'm going to stay married. And if I get divorced, there's this stigma that people will look at me as a divorcee and judge me for that.

Todd: Whether it's fortunate or unfortunate, it doesn't matter. Times have changed. So there is much less stigma associated with divorce. It has become more normal, and people are less judgmental when interacting with somebody who has gone through a divorce because so many people have.

Leh: And the irony of it all is that the divorce rate as a whole is going down.

Todd: That's right. That's right.

Leh: The fact that the stigma is going away as the divorce rate goes down is interesting.

Todd: Yeah. So then there's also health and life expectancy rates equal longer marriages. I've heard comedians talk about this. When I said till death do we part, I didn't think it was 60 some odd years. That's a long time. So again, we all hear the great stories and we have maybe even relatives who they had their 50 year reunion, not reunion.

Leh: Wedding anniversary.

Todd: Wedding anniversary. And that's fantastic. But a lot happens within that 50 plus year period of time. And sometimes people grow apart or something happens. It's just a much longer period of time than maybe they anticipated.

Leh: And to the growing apart, one of the things that we have seen is where the husbands and wives, they poured themselves into their children. And everything's been about the kids. Their whole lives revolved around the kids and then now the kids are off to college and they're looking across the kitchen table at each other and go, "Who are you?"

Todd: I look across the table all the time at you and think who you are. Who is this guy?

Leh: I'm not going there.

Todd: How about retirement? Retirement can have a material effect on a relationship because there is a buffer. Let's say you have what I'm going to call a traditional relationship and the wife has been a stay at home mother, has managed everything at the house, raised the children, and the husband has worked. That's great. There's a buffer because every day the husband leaves and goes to work and then comes back at night, and that's their life. Then retirement comes and there is no job. There is no work for him to go to when they're under the same roof 24 hours a day, together all that time. And that can create additional stresses. And maybe they get along and it's fantastic. Or maybe they're like, "I need another house," or something.

Leh: I need a break.

Todd: I need a break.

Leh: I've even seen situations where the wife went out and got a job at that point.

Todd: Exactly. Because they were looking for a buffer.

Leh: Yes.

Todd: Right.

Leh: I'm going to put that buffer back in place.

Todd: And then there's just getting old. Okay? And it's happening to all of us. And sometimes you see situations where one party is getting older a little bit faster, meaning their body is failing, there are health issues. And that starts to wear on a relationship. And it's unfortunate. But I've experienced through clients, I've seen situations where let's say I have a client who's unfortunately battled sickness and infirmity. It's very, very stressful and draining on the relationship. And unfortunately, it just becomes or gets to a point where they drift apart because it seems like the relationship is defined by sickness and infirmity. And they then move towards a divorce.

Leh: Now, I don't see it as much with the physical illness as so much to the mental illness.

Todd: We do see that quite a bit.

Leh: Yeah, the mental illness where they can't, it leads to often times family violence.

Todd: A lot of times we do see where one of the spouses is suffering from mental illness, and they become more angry. They become at times physical, at the very least verbally threatening. And it gets worse, and worse, and worse, to the point where unfortunately the other spouse has to flee because they just fear for their safety.

Leh: And we've had a lot of those, unfortunately.

Todd: Yup. Or how about I stayed for my kids.

Leh: Yeah.

Todd: There are people who stay in a relationship simply because they're like, "I don't want to do this to my children."

Leh: Or at least while they're in high school.

Todd: While they're in high school, while they're in school. But to what you were talking about before, once they leave the nest, now all of a sudden something that was an anchor, keeping that person in the relationship willing to deal with whatever it is they're dealing with, maybe that anchor is gone.

Leh: Yeah. Then of course there's spending habits.

Todd: And whether it's gray divorce or not, it comes up. But in gray divorce, there are other factors that need to be considered.

Leh: A lot of times with somebody who's spending a lot in the relationship. When you're younger it's like, well I'll have time to make it up. I'll have time to make it up. And then you get into your 50s and suddenly I don't have nothing in retirement because we kept liquidating it. And I've seen gray divorces because one party just couldn't stop spending. And the other one's like, "I'm going to be working until the day I die because I can't retire."

Todd: Yeah. And they're on a limited budget. And if one party is spending beyond that budget, it becomes a problem. Then there's also sexual activity, and just online dating. And socially, people can get out there and meet others. And it becomes easier to see that the grass may be greener somewhere else.

Leh: Yeah.

Todd: And they realize, people realize that maybe they have options.

Leh: Yup. And you know what's not easier?

Todd: Or not an option for us.

Leh: Yeah. It's to extend the time, unfortunately. Hey, up next we're going to talk about the challenges that we see in gray divorces, particularly as it relates to stay at home moms.

Todd: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether, and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. You can read more about us online at atlantadivorceteam.com.

Leh: Well today, we've been diving into gray divorces, and how Todd handles divorces with his gray hair. No, in the last segment we talked about what a gray divorce is and how it's this interesting trend. I mean, it's an unfortunate trend, but it's still from a statistical standpoint. It's interesting that while the divorce rate as a whole is going down, gray divorce rate is going up. It's almost doubling. It's almost doubled since the 90s.

Todd: You know what else is interesting? You made that joke and I think you have more gray hair than me. All right, I don't know. I'm going to have to get, what do you think? Thank you. I'm sorry, I wasn't gonna let that lie. Okay.

Leh: I was waiting for you to say something.

Todd: All right. When we're dealing with different parties, whether it is let's say a stay at home mom or the breadwinner throughout the marriage, right, there are different challenges. Correct? So this segment, let's focus on state home moms. Let's focus on those challenges because when dealing with a gray divorce, they are unique. Meaning they are very different challenges, one versus the other. Let's just start with the basics.

Leh: Yeah. I know this is stereotypical, but when you look at the marriages from the late eighties and early nineties, that's what encompass gray divorces. It was more traditional for the mom to stay home with the children. Or it was more common, I should say. The more traditional relationship. A lot of these divorces, the kids have gone off to college, and the mom still doesn't have a job.

Todd: Yeah. Look, my wife works. It's not an issue of us saying every woman is staying at home working. We understand there are many, many, many, many professional women that are out there earning and working. But you're right. When dealing with gray divorce, they grew up in a different time. And that doesn't mean that none of the women of that era worked.

Leh: And I'm not saying that, we both know moms work really hard. Not saying it's not a job. The struggle is-

Todd: Careers.

Leh: Careers.

Todd: What we're talking about is creating a money earning career. Historically, and for a lot of these baby boomers, while the baby boomers were home working tirelessly to manage the home, take care of the kids, meet all of their needs and have three and a half seconds per day to themselves. Their husbands were creating careers, were building careers. They both as a marital unit benefited from that. But it's very hard, especially when you're dealing with someone who is dealing with a gray divorce. They can't start a new career. Can they get a job? Yes. Are they going to suddenly create a career and rise through the ranks, and become CEO of a company? No.

Leh: Probably not.

Todd: Probably not. Unless they really, really good, which maybe. So it's very late at that stage to create and start a career as opposed to just going out and getting some kind of a job to help pay bills.

Leh: Right. So that's one of the first challenges is just so late. Even though there's not supposed to be age discrimination, we would be lying to say that it still doesn't exist. So if you come out with very few skills or it's been 20 years since you had your college degree, it's going to be very difficult to find a high paying job. And a lot of times you have to get retrained or go back to school because what you knew 20 years ago is all, especially in some fields, it's all irrelevant now.

Todd: That's right. Alimony.

Leh: That creates a situation where you're highly dependent on the breadwinner for alimony. And the alimony law has changed. So it used to be that it was something that you could write off for tax purposes, but you can't now. And that makes it where the breadwinner, the husband. We're going to just say the stereotypical situation. There are exceptions to it, but the stereotypical. The husband, he's not wanting to pay as much alimony because he can't write it off anymore.

Todd: Yeah. And there's also, another component to that is when you're dealing with a gray divorce. Especially in a situation where both parties at that point are "retired," so the husband may have built up a career, and it may have been a fantastic career. But if he has left that career and retired at an appropriate age and at an appropriate time. By that I mean we have seen situations where it just so happens right around the time that they're about to go get a divorce, I'm retiring. Yes. Well no, I'm sorry. You're not ready for retirement. But unfortunately at that point, alimony becomes a harder argument because alimony is based on your need and the other party's ability to pay. And therefore if the other party is not working and has left, has retired and left that job or that career behind, there's not that money there, that income with which to pay alimony.

Leh: Yup. But let's go back and let's say they're not the near the retirement age. Let's say they're in the early fifties. We have a lot of situations where the kids are now in college and so the husband is paying for the college education. Once they pay for the college education for the kids, they pay the bills. There's nothing left for the mom.

Todd: I break into cold sweats when I think about what college costs nowadays. So I've told my kids that really they just need to figure something else out. College is overrated. Honey, I'm only kidding. And kids, you are going to college. But yeah, that's right. And it goes back to the ability to pay. So someone who has retired or is at that stage where the kids are in college, then the money may not be there.

Leh: So it creates a competition between alimony and college. Now I will say here in Georgia, the courts can ignore for a certain point, their costs. Because in Georgia, once you get age of majority, 18, that is no longer an obligation of the parents.

Todd: Yeah. So the court will prioritize the needs of the spouse over something like helping with college. In other words, if you're saying, "Judge, I would love to pay alimony. But I am putting our child through college." The court will say, "Well, my priority right now is to make sure your spouse is okay. And looking at this budget, your spouse will not be okay." And there's also statistics out there that relates to people that go through gray divorces. Women who have gone through gray divorces versus men. There are a lot of women who are struggling financially that go into the poverty level as opposed to men.

Todd: So it is something where a judge will likely say, "I'm not worrying about college. So if you have some extra money after that and you want to do college, that's fine. But I'm going to make sure that both of you are financially okay."

Leh: And there are some states that the courts will take the college education into consideration. So that's something that you're going to have to look into. But all right. And the other thing is child support's usually not in the picture.

Todd: Kids are aged out.

Leh: They're aged out.

Todd: That's right.

Leh: So that creates a challenge up. Health insurance creates a big challenge because often depending on the age in which you're getting the divorce, health insurance is much more expensive because that's often where the greatest amount of medical expenses are spent, at a later age.

Todd: This is going to apply to both parties. This is why working with someone to come up with an accurate future ongoing budget is so important. Because if you won the lottery or you have millions in the bank, you probably don't have to worry about these things. But if you're like most people and you have a nice nest egg, but that nest egg is now going to be cut in half and you're going to be living on a portion of that, half of that, you know that you need to budget carefully. And if insurance through your husband's employer is no longer available, then insurance is going to be very costly. You have to budget accordingly.

Leh: Yeah. And that's why sometimes, people do go out and get just a job. When I say just a job, I don't want to say it. They get something where it doesn't create a skill set.

Todd: Again, we were differentiating between career and job.

Leh: Right. So they get a job, maybe making 10, 15 an hour just to get health insurance. But then you've got their health that plays into it. They may not be in the best health, so it's hard for them to work a full time job and get that insurance. So that's a challenge.

Leh: The other challenge is life insurance, because let's say there isn't an agreement to pay alimony. But there may not be a policy out there to cover that obligation. And of course, there are situations where the husband will terminate the life insurance prior to the divorce or change beneficiaries prior to the voice. Now once the divorce is filed, there's usually standing orders that go in place in most areas that are supposed to block that. But that can create a problem, a challenge for the stay at home mom.

Todd: And I know we want to talk about overcoming some of those challenges. But, I think you're going to have a plan as to when we should do that.

Leh: Yes. When we come back, we're going to talk about overcoming some of these challenges and we're going to talk about the challenges that the breadwinner faces in a gray divorce. Typically the husband.

Leh: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether and with me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to Meriwether & Tharp radio. Actually, the Meriwether & Tharp Show, we changed the name. I told you I haven't been feeling well.

Todd: Yeah, that was-

Leh: Oxygen depletion. It does things to you.

Todd: I'm not exactly sure what to say or do for you. But instead, let's jump into some of the ways you can overcome the challenges. And this is again directed towards stay at home moms who have historically taken on that role in a family.

Todd: Don't wait for the last child to go off to college. Start getting your proverbial ducks in a row. If you think that it's going to be a possibility that you're going through this process, then don't wait. And please understand. I am never, ever, ever going to push somebody towards a divorce. So that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is if in your heart of hearts you have made that decision, then don't procrastinate. Don't wait for the kids to go to college where all of those other expenses have basically been realized.

Leh: Or let's say you've made right, wrong, or different. You've made the choice that when the kids go off, I'm getting a divorce. Well while they're in high school, do get a job. Start that process right then and there.

Todd: And that's a longer argument. Not argument, but discussion because there are some attorneys who will tell people don't go get a job, because it could affect your alimony. But if you sit down and you look at the numbers and you take into consideration what alimony you might be able to get considering your needs and your spouse's ability to pay, especially in a gray divorce where the income's limited potentially, you might see that the income is just not there.

Leh: Yes.

Todd: So in other words where an attorney might say to you don't go get a job because then I can go and hit your spouse up, your husband up for more money. The money may not be there. So you need to start. I always tell people, start thinking about what you can do for yourself. And there's usually always some room to argue that some additional help is needed. But at least you've taken care of yourself and you don't find yourself in big trouble because you didn't go get a job, and there's no money for alimony.

Leh: I'm glad you put that caveat in there. Because there are situations where there is the ... Because usually when you get into your 50s, that supposedly is statistically where most people earn the greatest level of income. And if things have been going well, his career is kicking in just at the age of 50 and he's doing really, really well. And so you may be setting yourself up for alimony. But if you have, going back to your, what you said, plan. Figure things out while the kids are still in high school. And if you figure things out and realize oh my gosh, if we suddenly double our household expenses because we're now living in separate places and we split our marital estate, there's not very much money to go around. And I really do want him to pay for the kids to go to college. And after he pays for them, and the wedding, we've got a wedding plan next year. Now all of a sudden, there's not enough money. And so maybe you should be planning for that. Start your career and everything.

Todd: And that goes into a couple more points that I'll make, and I know you have a couple. But if divorce is inevitable, create that realistic budget that I referred to earlier. Just don't wait. Start thinking about what it's going to cost. And if you work with somebody who is a professional, they're going to help you identify expenses maybe you weren't even thinking about.

Todd: Some of the basics, you're going to know. But it's not just rent. It's what are utilities are going to look like? What is insurance going to look like? What are co-payments going to look like? When you start thinking about everything. And hey, if you want TV, then there's a cost there. If you are driving a car, there's an expense. It's not just car insurance, there's gasoline and there's repairs. Create that realistic budget.

Todd: Educate yourself about family finances. Too many times we see people, and very often it is, although sometimes not. Very often it is the the non wage earner who is taking care of everything else. But what they do is they then say, "I don't really check the bank account"-

Leh: They delegate that to-

Todd: They delegate that to the other spouse.

Leh: There's nothing wrong with that.

Todd: There's nothing wrong. But then we talk to them and it's like, "Well what accounts do you have?" "I don't know." "How much money is there?" "I don't know." "How much saved, how much retirement?" "I don't know."

Leh: Right.

Todd: So educate yourself just about what is out there so that you're not surprised when a divorce comes as to what the estate looks like. Those are some of my points.

Leh: And from a more practical standpoint on a specific, often the parties over the course of time have acquired a very nice home. And one of the struggles is there's a lot of memories in that home, and they don't want to give it up. But that home is costing them a lot of money. And if the kids have gone off to school and they're about to get a divorce, you don't need a five, 6,000 square foot home. So one of the best things you can do for your long term financial strategy, and a good financial planner will talk to you about this, is to downsize. Sell it, get a decent sized home that has very little overhead, utilities, all that sort of stuff. And that will help reduce your budget.

Todd: So now let's turn our attention to challenges faced by the breadwinner.

Leh: Yes. All right so often, they're getting near retirement. It may be legitimate. Sometimes it may be not. And all of a sudden they're getting near retirement and they realize if they split their marital estate and double their household expenses, there's not enough money to retire. So that creates a challenge for the breadwinner because now they're going to have to instead of retiring at 64, they've got to work to 70. And often, we kind of touched on this before. But they're facing alimony on one end. Then their children, they feel obligated to cover their college expenses or perhaps a wedding because we've seen those before too. And those can quite get quite expensive.

Todd: Yeah. And let me also say this. Georgia handles alimony one way. There are jurisdictions, meaning there are other states. And I know we're not going into the law of other states, but where I've read and heard. Where if you've been married for a certain period of time, you're almost guaranteed to pay some alimony.

Leh: Florida is a lifetime alimony after so many years. At least that's the law. The last time I looked at it, that was the law.

Todd: And it still will be taken into consideration what the ability to pay is and the duration. Not the duration, but the amount.

Leh: Right.

Todd: But, it's almost a foregone conclusion.

Leh: It's a presumption.

Todd: That's right. So you have to take that into consideration.

Leh: And now that you can't write off alimony, that creates a huge problem because you could be writing a lot of money every month, and it's not a tax deduction anymore.

Todd: That's right. Which that's a longer argument. We've done a show on that in terms of that can affect the amount of alimony that a party can even agree to. But nonetheless, that's a consideration.

Leh: Then the struggle sometimes is when you pass a certain point, you can double your contributions. I think it's double, to your 401k because it's sort of a catch up provision. But if you're paying alimony, often you can't. And so now you've split your retirement with your spouse and you can't even make it up because you have all these expenses. So that becomes a huge challenge.

Leh: There's this perception out there too that while you've got your career, you can keep working. You may only have five years left in your career because in the industry, there's some industries that it's mandatory retirement at certain ages. I think it's an airline, not airline pilots. That may be one of them. But air traffic controllers, I think there's a mandatory retirement age.

Todd: I'm kind of okay with the pilots. I mean, no offense, I don't want a 112 year old pilot flying me.

Leh: But you may be nearing the end of your career in that field. So a divorce at that point in time can be catastrophic.

Todd: Yeah.

Leh: But there's this tendency to want to award the stay at home mom a greater portion of the marital estate saying that, "Well, the dad can make it up in the rest of his career."

Todd: Well, there's sort of a sweet spot to make that argument, right? It depends on how gray we're talking you. Because if we're talking about somebody who's 52, 53, 54, and still has seven, eight, nine, 10 years health-

Leh: And they're in good health.

Todd: And they're in good health, and they can continue to ear. Then the argument becomes they can build back that, they're nut if you will.

Leh: Their nest egg.

Todd: Their nest egg, they can build it back up. They have time. Whereas the other spouse is pretty much going to be whatever they get, that's what they have to live on. But if you're dealing with somebody who's late into their sixties, seventies, where basically they're done, they've been retired for x number of years and any job they get, it won't be a career related job. It will be a job job.

Leh: Right.

Todd: And probably minimum wage. Then they're limited.

Leh: Yeah. The other struggle can be you've got that tendency to want to award the stay at home mom more, which may be in certain set of circumstances, when we represent a stay at home mom, we're arguing that. But let's say she's younger than he is. Let's say he's 55 but she's 45. Well, it's almost not fair to split it 50/50 because of compound interest. And a lot of times the courts forget about compound interest. So by the time he hits retirement age and she hits retirement age provided she doesn't touch what she got out of the divorce, she actually would have a greater net worth because of compound interest.

Todd: I've seen the argument successfully made that because of a big age gap and the payer spouse, the income earner is either retired or on the verge, that basically they're done. Whatever they get, they're going to have to live off of. The other party, even if they just get a job job, will be able to live, and maintain, and all of that. And therefore equal, or even leaning in direction of the retired might be appropriate.

Leh: Yeah, and I'm leaning in the direction of continuing this discussion and talking about some more of the challenges that the breadwinners have, and talk about some unexpected consequences of greater forces.

Leh: Welcome everyone. I'm Leh Meriwether. With me is Todd Orston. Todd and I are partners at the law firm of Meriwether & Tharp, and you're listening to the Meriwether & Tharp Show. If you want to read more about us, you can always check us out online at atlantadivorceteam.com. If you missed part of this show or there's something you want to listen to it again, you can always check us out at divorceteamradio.com. You can even read the transcripts there.

Leh: Well, today we've been talking about gray divorces, and we started off the show explaining what they are, explaining that it's interesting that that divorce rate has doubled while the overall divorce rate has declined. And it's something that it's happening regardless of someone's education or financial wellbeing. But we talked about those cases presents certain challenges. And we started off talking about the challenges of the stay at home mom or the non-breadwinner. Then we've transitioned to the breadwinner and the challenges they face going through a divorce like this, but we didn't quite finish. So that's what we're going to wrap up with, and wrap that up. Then talk about some surprises that people don't expect going through the divorce process at that age. All right.

Todd: And one big one is, and before we go into overcoming challenges, is life insurance.

Leh: Yes.

Todd: We deal with health insurance all the time. I'm at a point where I am probably midway through a lengthy life insurance policy, a 30 year policy. And that's great. But at some point I'm, hopefully I make it. No one has to collect on it. But then I am sans life insurance. So the problem is that do I need to, want to, can I even go out and get another policy? And at that point, a new policy could be 20 plus thousand dollars per year.

Leh: Yeah. So often, lot of times people's policies ends at 58, 60. And to renew it is like you said, 20,000 or more because of your age.

Todd: Yeah. So you have to. That goes back to budgeting. That'll lead us into overcoming some of the challenges, which the same thing as the stay at home moms.

Leh: Yeah.

Todd: You need a realistic, accurate budget. It's going to have to include everything. If you just sit there and on the back of an old Chinese food menu, you write a couple of things and you're like, "That's what my budget is." It's probably not even scratching the surface of what your actual budget is.

Leh: The reason life insurance is important is because often, the party that's receiving it asked for life insurance to secure that alimony payment.

Todd: That's right.

Leh: But sometimes if you don't plan, if you say, "Oh sure, I'll provide life insurance." Well that's locked in. You can't modify that.

Todd: But they haven't thought about what the actual cost is.

Leh: Right.

Todd: You may have agreed to an alimony obligation and you have your own expenses, and maybe you're even still helping with college or doing this or doing that. And at some point, you're going to get hit with a 20 some odd thousand dollar per year expense that now gets tacked on to everything. You don't get to go back to court and say, "Oh yeah no. When I said I would pay alimony, I didn't realize that my life insurance would be so expensive. So can you please reduce my alimony obligation?" More than likely, court's going to say, "Bye bye. I'm not doing that."

Leh: Not doing that. One other thing that both sides face is proving separate property, because it's been such a longterm marriage that the odds that they have documents from when they got married are very, very small.

Todd: Yeah. And my cautionary statement there is to overcome that challenge, you will not be able to overcome the challenge if you wait until you are gray and divorcing. You need to identify your separate property and deal with that early on. Because if you co-mingle a separate asset with a marital asset. For instance, you have a bank account, there's $10,000 when you get married. And now, maybe it's grown to 15, 20, $25,000. If you have segregated that money, you've kept it separated from everything else, fantastic. Then you can look and say the money in that account is the same money I had 20, 30 years ago. But if you put it into another account where you basically put some of your income from the marriage and took it out, and put it in and took it out. And you keep doing that. You've co-mingled it. And it's not separate property anymore. So you need to be thinking early, early on, how can I protect the separate property so that in the event of a gray divorce, it's safe?

Leh: Yeah. But most people don't do that.

Todd: No.

Leh: All right. So, when you get married, you don't plan for a divorce.

Todd: That's right.

Leh: So it is what it is. Another challenge we see is that let's say that there was a fair amount of debt accumulated during the marriage, and you're near retirement. And all of a sudden you're doubling your expenses because you're splitting up households. You may not be able to retire because you can't use that retirement income to fund your lifestyle and pay off those debts. So we've unfortunately seen some bankruptcies come out of gray divorces because of the debts.

Leh: Obviously, there are great divorces out there where the parties have done an excellent job with their finances. You don't see those very often.

Todd: It's light gray.

Leh: Yeah. But they have very little debt because they paid off their house. Those divorces actually are quite easy to do because it's easy identify things, and they're usually fairly reasonable.

Todd: As long as emotion doesn't kick in and control behavior during the divorce process, I agree with you. Because at that point, the divorce and their futures, it's more palatable. It's I know what my future's going to look like, and therefore I'm not filled with anxiety and I know I'll be okay.

Leh: So I think the most important thing to overcome some of these challenges is plan, plan, plan. Like you said. You've got to figure out what all these numbers are. You can't walk in to a mediation or negotiation not knowing what all of your hard numbers are currently today and will be in a few years.

Todd: How can you and expect that you're going to reach an agreement on numbers that make sense, that will leave you whole, that will leave you in a position where you don't have to worry about can I pay my rent? Can I pay for my car? Can I put food on my table?

Leh: So let's talk about the unexpected problems. These actually are challenges, but I throw this out there because often we've heard from parents getting divorced, gray divorces. They say, "Well, we waited until after high school because we thought it would be less traumatic on the children, and it would be in their best interest to wait."

Todd: Anecdotally, I will tell you that more often than not. I will say more often than not because I've seen people sort of do this, and they were able to keep things civil, and they truly did wait, and it worked out. I've also seen many, many situations where the relationship sours to the point where the kids, they're now adults. And we have an opportunity to talk to them and they're like, "My parents should have divorced about five years ago." So you're not actually doing them a favor. If you can behave, great. Because I understand the theory behind it.

Leh: Yeah.

Todd: But if the relationship is to a point where it is sour and will only get worse, then you're actually doing probably more harm than good.

Leh: And often adult children are more willing to take sides in a divorce than the young children, because they're not old enough to understand what's going on. But adult children, they will look at the facts and they'll make a call. And they'll say, "I think you're treating my mom poorly." And they'll ostracize that other parent from their life. So that other parent doesn't get to be a grandparent to their children. So it's gotten ugly. I've seen some divorces where the children's involvement was almost uglier than what was going on in some of these other cases where the children-

Todd: Let me ask you this. How often do you see children, meaning underage children, take the stand in a divorce case to testify just not about custody issues, because that doesn't really happen. But to testify about the relationship between mom and dad?

Leh: Never.

Todd: Right. Right. But have you seen adult children be called to the stand?

Leh: Yes.

Todd: Right. So your point I think is a good one.

Leh: Yeah. So, all right. And here's something else we see. So it creates additional burdens on the adult children that people often don't think about. And here's an example of one. I wish I had time for all of them. I actually made a list of several of them.

Leh: So mom and dad get a divorce and let's say mom's in her 60ish. She's on a very, very tight budget and something breaks in the house. Well, normally dad would've fixed that. But now dad's out of the picture, he's moved away, they got a divorce. And so the son has to come over to mom's house now. And even though he's got a life and he's taking care of his kids and-

Todd: He's such a good boy.

Leh: He's missing his son's soccer game because he has to go to mom's house to fix a plumbing issue because she can't afford to hire a plumber. And he can't afford perhaps to hire one as well. He's got enough issues at his home. So that divorce created an additional burden on him. The parents, I should say the children who now that have their own children, have gotten into their own routine. They always do Christmas over here, and Thanksgiving here. Now all of a sudden there's more houses to go to during the holidays, and it can create a bitter resentment for them going through a divorce later on.

Leh: So that's an unexpected problem I think a lot of people don't count on when they go through these gray divorces. And if something does come up like that, it's important to have a conversation with the children. And I say that both parents should work towards making their children's lives less difficult when they go through it, and they should think about their kids even though they're grown adults.

Leh: Well unfortunately, we've run out of time. Hey everyone. If you're enjoying this show, we would love it if you go, if you're listening to this, if you're not listening on the radio and you're listening to this through a podcast directory, we'd love it if you'd give us a five star review. You can also find us at divorceteamradio.com.

Contact M&T Today

We can help with all your questions...