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Why divorce happens among older adults

“Gray divorce,” the term for divorces that happen among older adults, is on the rise. Some older people in North Carolina get a divorce for the same reasons couples of all ages do, such as infidelity or addiction. However, there are also issue unique to older adults that lead to divorce in this age group.

For example, some people realize that they have grown apart after their children leave home. Since life expectancies are longer and people are living healthier lives even as they grow older, they may have higher expectations for the years ahead. There may even be an opportunity to meet a new partner. These higher expectations might also make them finally decide to end the marriage over long-simmering problems, such as financial issues. One person might spend irresponsibly. Some marriages are threatened when the woman earns more money than the man.

Gray divorce can affect both the finances and families of older couples. Dividing decades worth of mingled retirement funds, investments, savings, life insurance policies and more can be particularly complex. People who have not worked outside the home for a long time might have to get a job. Adult children may struggle to adjust to the divorce as well. In addition to the loss of their family unit, they might have to deal with their parents starting new families.

An attorney might be able to help an individual navigate the divorce process. For people who have not been involved with the marital finances, this might start with reviewing tax returns, bank statements and other financial documents. The couple may be able to negotiate an agreement instead of going to court. Dividing retirement accounts can be complicated because certain rules must be followed. For example, dividing a 401(k) in a divorce requires a document called a qualified domestic relations order.