Now and Then

Why are twice as many long-term marriages ending in divorce today than they were twenty years ago and fueling a so-called “gray divorce” revolution? The answer may be twofold.

First, many people have a different definition of a “happy marriage” today than they did twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. Then, the most important elements in a marriage relationship were security and stability, at least in most households. Now, in addition to these items, many people seek some level of personal satisfaction and self-fulfillment. So, the expectations have changed.

Attitudes about marriage and divorce have also changed. A record number of Americans (70 percent, according to a 2008 Gallup poll) believe that divorce is morally acceptable. In other words, while a self-reflecting question like “Do I really want to stay with my spouse?” was unutterable a generation ago, it is now commonplace. And, given the rising tide of expectations, many marriages simply do not measure up, at least in the minds of a partner.

It only takes a spark to light this fire. For many people, that spark comes with the untimely death of a friend or loved one, retirement, an empty nest, a significant birthday, or some other milestone.

Financial Considerations

While most spouses have largely emotional reasons for seeking a divorce, there are some concrete economic concerns as well, especially for older Americans:

  • Retirement Plans: In most cases, a divorcing spouse is entitled to an equitable share of the funds accumulated during the marriage. Where long-term marriages are concerned, the amount of money can be staggering.
  • Home Equity: In a similar vein, both spouses are typically entitled to a share of the equity in a residence. If a sale and partition is not an option, an owelty lien, which guarantees payout when the house is ultimately sold, may be available.
  • Health Insurance: If Husband and Wife divorce, and both spouses are covered by Wife's work policy, Husband loses his coverage. New coverage can be difficult to find and afford, especially if Husband has any health problems.

Other economic concerns include the amount and duration of spousal maintenance payments, along with the financial support of adult children.

Gray divorce introduces a unique set of challenges into family law cases. For prompt assistance in this area, contact an experienced family law attorney in Naperville. We regularly serve clients throughout Chicagoland.


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