What Is A Gray Divorce & Tips To Prepare

what is a gray divorce tips to prepare

The term gray divorce is relatively recent, adopted to describe the increase in divorces between couples who are aged 50+ and have been married for decades. These divorces can be more complicated than others because, unlike couples who’ve been married for ten years or less, these couples often have a complex array of assets that must be intricately worked through and fairly allocated. 

And then, of course, there is the painful burden of processing the dissolution of a family culture. Adult children are still children and experience the same range of emotional impact as younger children in a divorce. Finally, there is the reorientation as each partner relearns life as an individual – rather than as part of a couple.

Steps To Support You While Navigating A Gray Divorce

Here are some important steps to support you as you prepare for and navigate divorce in your 50s, 60s, 70s, or beyond.

Is legal separation a better first step?

If you haven’t tried legal separation, this might be a good first step. Marriages mean different things to different people. Marriage can also mean different things to people at different phases of their life. Sometimes, legal separation offers prospective candidates for a gray divorce to take a look at their personal and shared narratives to see if there might be an alternative to divorce.

Taking time and space away from the marriage to process personal work while still honoring the same types of living and financial arrangements offered by divorce allows couples to find their way back into a partnership that may be defined differently from what it was before. Other times, legal separation helps those on the fence to see clearly that divorce is the best way forward. Every situation is different.

If Not, Prioritize mediation or a collaborative divorce process

If at all possible, work together to put the marital issues on the table as you work to divorce one another with the least amount of angst, resentment, and stress possible. One of the best ways to do that is to seek help from a family lawyer who specializes in mediation or seek individual representation from lawyers who prioritize collaborative divorce.

  • Divorce mediation

Divorce mediation uses one lawyer between the two of you. They are paid by the hour or may offer “packages” based on the number of sessions you meet with them. During divorce mediation sessions, the mediator serves as a completely objective party. In other words, we are completely neutral and do not “take sides.” Instead, we help you to divide assets fairly and facilitate cooperative decision-making at every turn. 

When you are in disagreement or conflict about how a particular asset or issue should be handled, we provide feedback on how a judge would most likely rule were you in a courtroom. Divorce mediation saves couples tens of thousands of dollars, keeps your business completely private, and facilitates all of the legal document compilation and filing for you. 

  • Collaborative divorce

A collaborative divorce shares the same goals as mediation: for couples to work through things as fairly as possible while minimizing negative conflict. However, in this model, each individual has their own attorney representing their interests, and both “teams” work together collaboratively to reach an equitable outcome. This is more expensive than mediation since there are separate attorney fees involved, but it’s still more affordable in terms of both financial and emotional/energetic costs.

Both options keep you out of the courtroom, which can be a very negative, draining, and damaging experience – especially if there are children and grandchildren involved. 

Learn more about how assets and investments are divided

Unless you have a prenuptial agreement, odds are the two of you, assets, and finances are tightly woven together in a single fabric. The California divorce process works to unravel that fabric into its separate parts again – and as equitably as possible. The more you understand how assets are divided in a divorce, the better prepared you’ll be. 

Because California is a community property state, the majority of the monies and assets acquired during your marriage are split 50/50 – without any deliberation. There are exceptions, such as inheritance or gifts, but these must be proven to be exceptions for the courts to recognize them. 

NOTE: This is NOT a time for secret preparations, hiding money or funds, hiding newly acquired assets, or starting any new financial ventures on your own. The courts frown on any attempts to hide assets before or during a divorce. Proof you were trying to do so can mean your spouse gets far more than they would have been entitled to otherwise.

Seek personal support through counseling or a similar outlet

This is no small thing. Ending a marriage that has survived decades, and that created a family, means the dissolving of a dynasty of sorts. While it may be the best and healthiest step for you both, it doesn’t come without tremendous emotional and energetic costs. 

Meeting with a licensed therapist or credentialed spiritual advisor, or life coach makes all the difference in your emotional and energetic well-being. It will also support you in working for the highest good of both yourself and everyone involved. 

Keep the kids out of it as much as you can

Adult children can be put in a terrible position if their divorcing parents aren’t careful. Like small children, they go through the same emotional and logistical struggles resulting from a gray divorce. They are often privy to far too much personal information about their parents that should be completely separate from their mother/child or father/child relationship. As tempting as it can be to gain allies, children should not be your support network during this process. They should be encouraged to have healthy, balanced, and open relationships with each parent – regardless of what brought their parents to this point.

After more than 30 years as a family lawyer and mediator, we witness the damage done when parents bring their children into the mix. Children always fare best – even adult children – when they can say things like, “I never heard my father say a disrespectful or unkind thing about my mother. He keeps his feelings about her separate from our relationship…” or vice versa. Plus, the more drama and trauma are brought into your adult children’s world, the more will spill over into your grandchildren’s lives.

Preparing For A Gray Divorce? Work With An Experienced Family Lawyer

The Law Offices of Gerard A. Falzone are known for their focus on integrity and fairness. We have more than 30 years of experience helping Bay Area couples navigate their divorces as smoothly, honorably, and affordably as possible. Call us at Schedule a consultation to learn more about our services, and we’ll be here to support you and your family every step of the way.