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What sets gray divorce apart

Decades ago, as divorce became easier and more common in the U.S., it was still fairly rare for older couples to split up. Whether due to different attitudes toward divorce or some other reason, so-called “gray divorce” was uncommon — until now.

No longer a rarity

These days, people over 50 are the fast-rising group in divorce statistics. While the overall divorce rate is dropping, it is going up among middle-aged and senior Americans. Currently, about a quarter of all divorce filings involve couples in their 50s, and 10 percent include spouses aged 65 and above. The current generation of people at that age do not feel taboo about divorce; many of them are likely on their second or third marriage. Also, with life spans increasing in this country, a 60-year-old in good health might expect to live 20 more years or longer. That is a long time to be trapped in a bad marriage.

Whatever your reasons for pursuing divorce in middle age, Washington’s divorce laws are the same for people of all ages. However, your divorce could look quite different than for a couple getting divorced in their 30s. For one thing, your children are likely adults. Child support and child custody will be irrelevant. But property division will be more important than ever.

Property division and retirement

At your age, you and your spouse have had the time to advance your careers and build up substantial wealth. When it comes time to divide your assets equitably, the process will be complicated by the size and extent of those valuables, such as investment portfolios, your home and other real estate, and perhaps an ownership stake in a business. With your planned retirement age possibly just a few years away, it is vital that you reach a settlement on asset division (or a court decision, if necessary) that respects your property rights and keeps you in a comfortable position going forward.

Gray divorce is a fast-rising part of divorce law but is still relatively niche. Make sure you choose an attorney familiar with the particular challenges of divorce between older people.