July 20th, 2022

How to Navigate “Late Life” Divorce

“Late Life” or “Gray” Divorce typically characterizes marital dissolutions after age 50. Couples make the decision to part ways at this phase for a variety of reasons, often after decades of building a life together. No matter what your motives are, if you are seeking to part ways with your longtime partner, check out these insights to help you successfully navigate a late-life divorce.

Choose Alternative Dispute Resolution for “Late Life” Divorce

Divorce earlier on in marriage may be quite contentious. When couples face challenges with raising children including complicated and emotionally fraught issues such as establishing a custody schedule, making legal custody decisions, child support, spousal support, and more, compromise can be difficult.  When parties cannot agree on these very important matters, contentious trials become likely.  Proceedings can take years to finalize and can be quite costly for the parties involved.

While not always the case, many “Late Life” divorces are amicable. Couples may simply decide they want different things as empty nesters and therefore seek a clean break. Alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, offers many benefits to divorcing couples including but not limited to

  • Financial savings;
  • Relationship preservation;
  • Benefits to mental and emotional health; and
  • Finality

Consult with an experienced divorce attorney to see if ADR is right for you. Often, family/divorce attorneys  are also trained as mediators who can  support couples and families seeking to settle matters outside the courtroom.

Five common “Late Life” divorce issues

Even if you and your partner agree to settle your divorce in a civil manner, you may still have some big questions to answer. This is especially the case if you have lived many years   together, or are nearing retirement. After a number of years together, couples need to consider various later life issues, including but not limited to:

  1. Retirement funds – If you and your spouse have planned for retirement together, likely with a 401(k), IRA, and/ or other possible pension plans, you need to determine how to divide these up amidst your divorce. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or QDRO, may be necessary to ensure both of you get equal shares, while also avoiding undue tax burdens. Especially if one partner stayed home to raise children during your marriage, it’s likely retirement savings were accrued by the house breadwinner, and thus in their name.
  2. Estate plans – Retirement funds are typically  included in  shared estate planning documents, but they are just one of many details. Whereas everything in the estate plan you created while married was done so with a shared journey in mind, you are now taking separate paths, a major life event. This will affect things like wills, life insurance beneficiaries, Powers of Attorney, and possibly trusts you may have in place. To learn more about divorce estate planning, click here.
  3. Healthcare/Medicare coverage and eligibility – With so many factors affecting medical benefits, divorce is not one to diminish. If both partners work and maintain your own benefits, this may not be an issue. However, if one partner doesn’t work due to family decisions, disability, serious illness or retirement, and is utilizing the other partner’s healthcare coverage, you’ll need to navigate this in your divorce. Some couples decide to separate and postpone a divorce until they reach Medicare eligibility age.
  4. PropertyOwning a home impacts Medicaid when it comes to the necessity or desire for assisted living or skilled nursing care. Depending on the ability of each partner to live independently, property will be a major point of discussion. Additionally, in Pennsylvania and in most states, senior homeowners receive property tax rebates. Consider how this, along with access to equity, may benefit one partner should you decide not to sell the home and split profits.
  5. Social Security – Even though Social Security benefits cannot be considered divisible assets in a divorce, you should consider eligibility. As noted on the Social Security Administration website, spouses can receive Social Security based on their ex-spouse’s record if:
  • Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
  • Your ex-spouse is unmarried.
  • Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older.
  • The benefit that your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their own work is less than the benefit they would receive based on your work.
  • You are entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Why you need an attorney for late life divorce

Life is complex, especially when you’ve built one with your partner and need to chart a new path forward. Even if you and your spouse are currently filing an uncontested divorce, there is no guarantee the situation won’t take a different turn depending on your circumstances. Navigating a gray divorce may not always be so black and white.

Gross McGinley’s divorce attorneys have decades of experience working with couples like you choosing late life divorce. Let us help ensure your unique case is handled with care and compassion.








The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.