Initially coined in 2004, the term Gray Divorce is used most often to describe divorces amongst couples who have been married for between 20 and 30 years.
Gray divorces actually seem to be on the rise, with some research showing that although the overall divorce rate in the U.S. has decreased in the last 20 years, the rate of divorce for couples who are over the age of 50 years old has continued to rise.
Gray divorces require the couples involved to take a number of unique considerations into account, so if you and your spouse have been married for more than ten years or are over the age of 50 years old and are thinking about ending your marriage, it is important to contact an experienced Texas divorce lawyer who can assist and advise you throughout the process.
Regardless of the reason that a couple is seeking divorce later in life, the reality is that the longer a couple is married, the more complex they can expect their divorce-related issues to be.
Alimony determinations, in particular, can quickly derail gray divorce proceedings, as the compensation that a person earns late in his or her career tends to be more complex than when that individual first started out. For this reason, parties to a gray divorce are often forced to account for the following forms of compensation when reaching an alimony agreement:
- Ownership stakes;
- Executive compensation packages;
- Restricted stocks;
- Vehicle allowances; and
- Travel perks.
When one or more parties to the dissolution of a long-term marriage enjoys these types of perks, they will almost always be required to account for them when determining the amount and duration of any alimony payments.
Characterizing Marital Property
Texas is a community property state, which means that couples who decide to get divorced in the state must divide their community property, or marital assets, equally. For this reason, determining which of a couple’s assets were acquired during a marriage and so must be divided, and which property was acquired before the marriage and so will remain in the original owner’s sole possession is extremely important.
Generally, the longer a couple is married, the more difficult it is to identify and characterize their assets. For instance, if a person is 60 years old when she files for divorce and has been married for 30 years, it is extremely unlikely that she will still retain the statements from a 401(k) established when she was 25 years old.
This in turn, can make it difficult to determine the account’s premarital value. Similarly, if one party to a divorce owns a baseball card collection, which was originally acquired prior to his marriage and has increased in value over the years, it can be difficult to prove that these assets qualify as separate property.
Because the mishandling of these issues could result in one spouse giving away separate property to which the other spouse is not entitled, addressing these types of issues head-on is critical to the fairness of any property settlements.
Accounting for Inheritances
Inheritances, even when acquired during the course of a marriage, still qualify as separate property, which means that they are not subject to division upon divorce. It is still possible for these assets to become commingled with marital assets, in which case they will also be considered marital property.
Commingling can be achieved in a number of ways. If, for instance, the funds from an inheritance were placed into a couple’s joint account, a court could decide that those assets became marital property and so must be divided. Issues could also arise when calculating alimony if a court determines that income earned from investing an inheritance should be taken into consideration when coming up with the proper amount of an alimony payment.
Dividing Retirement Accounts
It is also much more likely that a couple involved in a gray divorce will be required to grapple with the division of pension plans and other retirement accounts. Pensions, in particular, are particularly difficult to divide, especially for government employees, as these accounts do not take the same form as a 401(k) account or an IRA.
To determine how these accounts will be divided, couples will need to assess the value of the account pre-marriage as opposed to its value post-marriage, which can be a complex process for couples who have been married for decades. If a couple is unable to determine how these accounts will be divided, a court could be required to step in and make a decision on the parties’ behalf.
Contact an Experienced Texas Divorce Lawyer for Help with Your Case
Please contact the Law Office of Ben Carrasco, PLLC today to speak with a dedicated Austin, Texas divorce lawyer about your own divorce-related questions and concerns. You can reach a member of our legal team by calling (512) 320-9126 or by completing one of our brief online contact forms.