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Family

Gray divorce may leave former couples in the red

Posted April 18

Fifty and older is the one age group that's seeing growth in divorce. But it's a tricky time and a trickier process for couples who've amassed some wealth and benefits. And it can leave a lot of them in the red, says Washington Post columnist Rodney Brooks.

"While divorce has mostly leveled off or decreased across age groups, so-called 'gray divorce' continues to increase. Bowling Green State University researchers said twice as many people over age 50 divorced in 2014, compared to 1990," as the Deseret News reported recently.

More than half of Atlanta lawyer Robert Boyd's divorce cases feature couples where at least one is 50 or older, he told Brooks. "There is a big trend. The reasons are many. The children are gone. And it’s not uncommon that it’s people in a second marriage, which has an even higher rate of divorce.”

So-called gray divorce has become so common that it has its own landing page on Huffington Post.

But nearly everything written on the topic features some kind of financial warning. For instance, in U.S. News and World Report, Maryalene LaPonsie writes that alimony is almost always awarded when long-term couples part ways. And "your retirement money is about to be cut in half."

So are IRAs and investments, as Craig Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services, told Brooks.

Experts also warn that gray divorce can jeopardize health care coverage for at least one former spouse, which many older divorcing couples don't consider, at least initially. And in many couples, one has managed the finances throughout the marriage, which often puts the other at a disadvantage.

Money, though, is also one reason some older couples say they're able to consider a divorce. Women are more likely than in the past to have been working and thus feel they have some financial resources of their own, as The New York Times explained last fall.

"Current research by Susan L. Brown, a professor of sociology at Bowling Green, has found that 'gray divorced' over-62 women receive smaller Social Security benefits, on average, than other single women and men. And more than a quarter live below the official poverty line," the article said.

"On the other hand, more than half of women from 55 to 64 are employed, which means they have an independent source of income."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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