Man Looking Sad About Divorce

Factors to Consider in a Gray Divorce


Recently one of our younger attorneys asked me about a request from a potential client for a “silver divorce” because the attorney was not sure what that was. Being a bit older myself, I am familiar with terms like silver sneakers, silver singles, and of course gray or silver divorce.

If you have not guessed, silver or gray refers to those of us at an age where our hair color has faded to the grayer shades (for those that have any hair left to see). Gray (or silver) divorce is therefore a term sometimes used to refer to divorce late in life.

Because of the stage of life this generally finds us at, gray divorces tend to be much less about parenting plans and child support, and much more about splitting up accumulated assets and long term financial planning. Typically a gray divorce couple is either looking at a looming retirement, or is already retired. Not having employment income to look forward to after a certain point highlights the importance of making the best use of what the couple has.

Is a Silver Divorce More Complicated Than a Regular Divorce?

Even if a couple has carefully planned for retirement, divorce can throw a wrench into the best laid plans as it often entails increasing expenses. The divorced couple will need two homes rather than one, with all of the associated expenses that go along with that. Having this come at a time when income may be going down is a bit of a double whammy.

One issue that comes up often is social security. Social security benefits are not divisible in a divorce. In other words, we cannot require the government to send part of one person’s benefit to their¬† former spouse. It may be possible to require a former spouse with a higher benefit to pay some amount of spousal support to the other, but that can be harder to enforce if the paying person refuses to pay.

On the other hand, be aware that in many cases a person can qualify for their own social security benefits based on their spouse’s (or former spouse’s) work history (up to half of the amount the working spouse is qualified for). This means that a person who did not work during the marriage may still be able to receive some social security benefits. Likewise, if the person would qualify for some benefits based on their own work history, but could qualify for more based on the spouse’s work history, they will receive the greater amount.

And just to be clear, if a person qualifies for increases benefits based on a former spouse’s work history, this does not reduce the amount of benefits that the former spouse receives. It is an entirely separate benefit.

Working with a financial planner during a gray divorce can be very helpful in both coming up with a sustainable plan for the future, and decreasing anxiety about the future. When we handle gray divorces collaboratively, both spouses typically work with a joint financial specialist to make sure they come up with a plan that works best for both.

Seattle Divorce Services is Here to Manage Your Gray Divorce

For more information about gray divorce, see the page on our website entitled Divorce Late In Life.

If you need to discuss a pending divorce with one of our attorneys, just give us a call at 206-783-2215, or use our contact form to request an appointment.