Culture

Divorce After 50 Is On The Rise

Calabrese Budner Helps You Navigate The Gray Divorce

BY // 10.10.22

People over 50 are experiencing the largest spike in divorce rates. Known as “Gray Divorce” because of the presumed hair color, divorcing after 50 has more than doubled since the 1990s. Why this trend? And, after spending multiple decades together, what are the culprits of this massive life shift?

The stigma surrounding divorce is now a thing of the past. People are living longer than ever and understand that it’s not too late to make a change if they are unhappy in their marriage. The thought of “putting up with” someone for 30-plus years is now undesirable and outdated.

We see it happening with celebrities, such as Melinda and Bill Gates, who divorced after 27 years of marriage. Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott lasted 25 years. Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne called it quits after three decades together. But it’s not just for the famous; we also see it in our own backyard, with our friends and family. With kids off to college and beyond, some empty nesters are realizing they may not have as much in common as they once did. Couples are taking a hard look at what they want out of life and taking the steps to seize that. Regardless of the reason behind the divorce, this particular age group has a unique set of legal and emotional issues to consider. At this stage in life, while custody battles may be less common, there are other contend with in long-term marriages. For example, couples divorcing after 50 years often have accumulated significant wealth, have built businesses over the course of their careers, and may be close to retirement.

Carla Calabrese and Lee Budner, partners at the family law firm Calabrese Budner, are well-versed in the challenges of divorce, including Gray Divorce. “When it comes to the unique and delicate legal issues inherent in divorcing later in life, we are skilled in developing strategies to protect our clients’ interests,” Calabrese says. “We navigate the practical considerations for our over-50 clients every single day. Here Calabrese Budner identifies some of the must-ask questions for those entering into the territory of the so-called Gray Divorce.

How will our assets be divided? How are they valued?
Whether it’s real estate assets, retirement accounts, oil-and-gas interests, debt, or tax consequences, it’s easy for people to feel overwhelmed by the central question of how assets will be divided. Calabrese Budner has guided clients through the most complicated property cases and asset valuations. “Clients over 50 with varied assets need counsel who can work through issues unique to the division of a complicated estate, ensuring that no stone is left unturned,” Budner says.

How does my spouse’s business play into a divorce?
While each case is unique, unless a spouse’s business is separate property owned prior to marriage, a spouse is likely entitled to share in the value of the other spouse’s business upon divorce. Questions to ask: How do you place a value on that business or practice, and who gets to decide the value? Calabrese Budner helps clients navigate these incredibly important questions when approaching a divorce.

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These questions not only impact those getting the divorce but can also affect business partners. “At Calabrese Budner, we guide our clients through high-stakes divorces involving businesses of all kinds, from legal and medical practices to family-owned businesses,” Calabrese says. “Our goal is to maximize value for our clients in whatever way we can.” Additionally, when a business is at issue, clients need representation that effectively navigates issues related to executive compensation, equity, deferred compensation, and other issues related to their businesses.

What does my financial future look like?
Often with a Gray Divorce, lifestyle and retirement trajectories can be impacted due to the division of finances. How much money do you actually need to live on? Will your standard of living change? Is one spouse entitled to spousal maintenance, alimony, or some other post-divorce financial support? What about health insurance, social security and life insurance policies? Calabrese Budner helps clients understand how their divorce is going to impact their financial future, often by involving financial advisors who run long-term cash need projections based on possible settlement options prior to inking any deals.

Inheritance. What’s at stake?
Family inheritance, whether it’s before or during the marriage, is often a hot topic with the Gray Divorce. Are these funds considered separate property, or are they added into the mix and fair game when it comes to dividing property in connection with divorce? Budner says, “A high percentage of our Gray Divorce clients’ cases involve characterization and division of an inheritance. Inheritances that are
kept separate can often be protected. Those spent on the family to pay living expenses or, say, to improve the marital residence, may be harder to claim in the divorce.” Calabrese Budner involves tracing experts as needed to aid clients with protecting their separate property inheritances.

Are there any kid considerations in a Gray Divorce?
Most Gray Divorces involve kids who are out of the home, but it doesn’t mean they’re not impacted or that there are no financial considerations. Parents are still often providing for their college-aged kids’ financial needs, and weddings may be around the corner. Although a court cannot order a parent to put a child through college or throw their wedding, “most of our clients over 50 tackle those issues in their divorces as they are real, immediate needs for both spouses,” Calabrese says. Budner adds, “Divorce can be a highly emotional event for adult children.” Having family lawyers who handle the situation with an emotionally intelligent approach is crucial. Calabrese Budner’s Emotionally Intelligent Divorce services looks at your divorce from every angle. “The goal is to have the best chance at success on Divorce Day 2,” says Calabrese. When it’s said and done, Calabrese Budner strives to ensure they have addressed all of their client’s financial and emotional needs in their Gray Divorce.

For more on Gray Divorce, check out calabresebudner.com.

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