Gray Divorces: Issue That Could Affect You If You Divorce Later in Life

Wedding Rings With a Gavel and Scales of JusticeDivorce is never easy. However, it can be even more traumatic to split up later in life when you have been married for years or decades. In addition, there are special considerations when you must file for a gray divorce.

What Is a Gray Divorce?

A gray divorce is one where both spouses are over 50 years old, or the marriage has lasted 20 years or more. Gray divorces are increasingly common as more couples decide to divorce at an older age rather than remain in an unhappy marriage. This is due in part to the fact that many couples’ financial situations have stabilized since the recession, and they do not have to stay together for financial reasons.

Four Matters You Should Consider When Filing for a Gray Divorce

You face unique challenges when divorcing later in life. Significant considerations that you will need to decide in your divorce include:

Retirement Benefits

If you divorce closer to when you plan to retire, it could reduce the amount of income you and your spouse will have to live on. Sometimes it can be helpful to delay a divorce to give both spouses time to save for retirement or to postpone retirement until the divorce is finalized. In addition, it can be more complicated to divide retirement benefits, such as a pension or 401(k) account, if you have been married for longer.

Division of Marital Assets and Debts

If you were married for a long time, you may have accumulated more assets and debts with your partner. In Virginia, marital property and debts are to be divided equally between the spouses in a divorce, but this does not mean that everything is split in half. If you have more marital assets and debts, it can be more complicated to decide how to divide them fairly.


Health insurance coverage can be a major issue in a gray divorce if you and your spouse do not have health insurance benefits through your jobs. In some cases, people divorcing later in life can find it unaffordable to purchase health insurance on their own. If you are in this situation, you may decide that a legal separation may be a better option to ensure that you and your partner have the health insurance you need as you get older.


Competency can become an issue when couples divorce later in life if one partner’s cognitive abilities have declined due to dementia or another health condition. If there are questions about whether you or your partner is competent enough to make important decisions in your divorce, the court may have to determine competency and take additional steps to protect the interests of the spouse who is not able to make decisions on his own.

Are you considering filing for a gray divorce? Let our skilled family law legal team help you determine the unique issues you need to resolve so that you can successfully start a new, fulfilling life after divorce. Call our Norfolk office to take advantage of our offer of a free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.


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