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What Is a Gray Divorce in California?

Posted by Furman & Zavatsky | Feb 15, 2018

Some couples divorce very early in their marriages. The average age of someone going through their first divorce is around 30, after 8 years of marriage. However, other people divorce much later in life as they are approaching their retirement years.

Gray Divorce in California

Divorce for older people is commonly called “gray divorce,” and it poses unique challenges.  Gray divorce is just the nickname given to couples that decide to get a divorce after long marriages and later in their life.

The “gray” part of the nickname obviously refers to the fact that many of the couples involved in gray divorces also have gray hair.  According to statistics from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, one in four divorces filed occurred among individuals who are age 50.

Clearly, these numbers are significant amount and it raises a common question. What are the most common reasons for these divorces later in life? Many couple say they have just grown apart over the years.

Their kids have grown up and moved away. The couple spent a large part of the marriage raising the kids and now that they are no longer around, their focus is only on their spouse. When couples work on raising their children, they're very busy. In many cases, so busy they often don't notice they are growing farther apart with each passing year.

However, now that one or both are in retirement, they have a lot more time on their hands and again, one spouse suddenly discovers they are not comfortable constantly being around the other. Another common reason for a gray divorce is of course……

Typically, each spouse will approach spending money differently. One could be a free spender and the other a big saver. When they are in their prime money earning years, a lot of bad financial decisions will be overlooked because there is a regular flow of money.

However, once the regular income stream stops coming in, the couple is forced to live on a fixed income and any money they have saved for retirement. In many cases, their financial situation causes a lot of stress.  Differences in daily spending habits become abundantly clear and often lead to one spouse wanting to get divorced. See related: What if My Spouse Won't Grant Me a Divorce?

If you are considering a divorce, you should consult with a Los Angeles gray divorce lawyer at Furman & Zavatsky LLP. Divorce mediation may be a favorable legal option. Couples that are seeking a divorce later in life will have specific aspects of their marriages that will need to be determined. The main issues are often division of marital property and spousal support. If you are considering divorce in your 50's or later, you should meet with our Los Angeles divorce lawyers to discuss the following:

Consider Your Financial Needs

Living on one income will certainly be an adjustment for most people after years of marriage. Instead of splitting housing, transportation, and household costs with another person, you'll be responsible for all on your own. Before filing for divorce, you should consider how much money you will need to support yourself. Add up:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Car or other vehicle
  • Health insurance
  • Debts, such as credit cards or personal loans

If you are not the spouse who paid the bills each month, you might be surprised at how expensive it is to set up a household. After looking at the numbers, you might realize you need additional sources of income, which can be more difficult at this point in life. The U.S. economy has been very hard on older workers over the past decade. Our Los Angeles gray divorce attorneys will make sure you fully understand how much money you need to support yourself and identify ways to obtain it.

Review Your Assets and Debts

At divorce, a judge will divide your marital assets and debts between you and your spouse. Because California is a community property state, a judge will generally divide them 50-50. This means that you'll only get half of the assets you bought with your spouse, such as your home. It also means you'll be responsible for half of the debts either spouse took out during marriage.

If you and your spouse have significant joint assets, think carefully about which ones you want. For example, you might want to stay in your family home. However, you need to fully consider the cost and labor necessary for upkeep, which might be too much for some people.

Also, homes might not appreciate in value as fast as other assets like mutual funds, so you could end up with less money when you retire. A Los Angeles gray divorce lawyer at our law firm can help you identify which assets to seek as part of your divorce settlement.

Talk with a Divorce Lawyer about Spousal Support

In many marriages, one spouse has earned much more than the other. After divorce, the spouse who earned less will suffer a greater fall in living standards unless they can supplement their income. Fortunately, California allows divorcing spouses to seek alimony payments , also called spousal support.

Before deciding whether to grant alimony, a judge will look at a variety of factors spelled out in the California Code:

  • Your ability to maintain your standard of living. This includes your education and marketable skills, as well as your ability to get additional education or work experience after divorce.
  • Whether you made contributions to your spouse's career. For example, you worked to help your husband go to school, or you made unpaid contributions to your spouse's business.
  • The ability of either spouse to pay spousal support. If your spouse makes the same as you, it will be harder to get spousal support.
  • Your age and health. For example, if you are sick and need home health care, the judge might be more willing to award you spousal support.
  • The length of the marriage. The shorter your marriage, the more likely you are to receive temporary alimony or none at all. Often, a spouse receives alimony for half the number of years they were married, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule.

A judge looks at all of the above factors (and others), so obtaining an order of support depends on your divorce lawyer's skill at making a compelling case. Furthermore, either spouse might give up any right to alimony in a divorce settlement, so it is critical that you meet with our Los Angeles divorce attorneys to protect your rights.

Revisit Wills & Trusts

Chances are, you left a considerable amount of property to your spouse in your estate plan. Find them now and identify which gifts you left to your spouse. You might want to designate your children as your beneficiaries instead of your spouse. You should also look at assets not listed in your will, such as life insurance and 401K or other retirement plans. When you opened these accounts, you made a beneficiary designation. After the divorce, you might want to designate your children or a charity as your beneficiary.

Contact a Los Angeles Gray Divorce Lawyer

As you can see from the issues discussed above, a senior citizen divorce for older couples is more complex than a divorce for a young or newly married couple. This is a very stressful decision and if you're not careful, your divorce can become a nightmare.

This is why it's critical that all your gray divorce issues be handled by a skilled Los Angeles divorce attorney at Furman & Zavatsky LLP. All the issues that you will face in your gray divorce, including spousal support and marital property division, will be discussed when you consult with one of our family law attorneys.

Our divorce lawyers will be able to guide you through the divorce process and provide you with the highest level of expertise to obtain the final divorce decree.  Whether to get divorced is never an easy decision. Fortunately, legal help is available to help you think through your goals.

Our Los Angeles divorce and family law practice have extensive experience helping clients divorce later in life. Call our divorce law firm at 818-528-3471 for a free case evaluation.

Furman & Zavatsky LLP
15821 Ventura Blvd #690
Encino, CA 91436

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Call a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer

Family law disputes have the potential to have a significant impact on your quality of life and overall happiness. As a result, it is critical for you to protect your rights to the fullest extent possible when involved in a dispute related to family law. The lawyers of Furman & Zavatsky have the skill and experience to resolve your case as favorably as possible and provide compassionate and understanding legal counsel and representation. We also offer flat fee legal services for divorce and family law issues.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our Los Angeles divorce attorneys, call our office today at 818-528-3471. Read our blog on how to prepare for your first meeting with a divorce lawyer.

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Encino, CA 91316
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