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Considerations in a “Gray Divorce”

Horn & Johnsen SC > Horn & Johnsen News  > Considerations in a “Gray Divorce”

Considerations in a “Gray Divorce”

The frequency of “Gray Divorce” is increasing in Wisconsin.    According to the Washington Post, in the last 25 years, the divorce rate for couples over 50 years old has doubled.  The rate for those over 65 has more than doubled.  As a Wisconsin divorce lawyer, I have noticed the changing demographic of my clients.  To meet the challenges and needs of my clients, I must be educated on the specific issues involved in a  “gray divorce.”  Some of those issues are:

  1.        Social security:  be aware of the benefits available for both spouses.  For example, spouses married at least 10 years can receive a portion of their former partner’s social security  benefits.  Also, benefits can depend on when they are received.  Early receipt of benefits decreases the monthly payment.  If spousal support is to be paid, these are important consideration.
  2.        Division of retirement accounts.  In a Gray Divorce, retirement assets are either already in pay status, or soon will be.  There also is less time to accumulate retirement assets.  Therefore, the division of those assets is of primary importance.  There are various ways to shift tax burdens or transfer accounts to ensure both spouses have sufficient funds in retirement.
  3.        Spouses in a Gray Divorce must also consider health issues.   A spouse with health concerns may require greater spousal support, or be able to pay less support.   Even if both spouses are relatively healthy, it is still wise to consider potential health issues that would impact your ability to earn income.
  4.        Couples may also wish to set aside funds for their children’s college education.  Not all assets must be divided between the spouses at divorce.  Instead, certain assets can be set aside, by agreement, for adult children.
  5.        Normally, couples divorcing later in life have been married for many years.  Know your rights.  In Wisconsin, there is a presumption of equal property division.  There is also a more limited presumption of equal division of income.  Those presumptions can be overcome, depending on the circumstance of the marriage.  Whether you are the spouse who would pay out property or support, or the recipient, know your options to ensure you leave a long-term marriage on fair terms.

6.       Divorcing couples face a new reality later in life.  Whereas during the marriage, the income paid one set of  bills, the same income must now pay bills for two households.   Your divorce lawyer must work with you, and perhaps your financial advisor, to establish a budget and expectations to ensure a comfortable lifestyle.

The Gray Divorce presents unique challenges for the spouse and divorce lawyer.  Couples married many years should give the same careful thought to ending the relationship that they did building it. I have handled hundreds of divorces, and would be happy to consult with you.  I offer free telephone consultations to discuss your concerns.

You can reach David at 608-709-5000, by email at, or by visiting

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