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Older Coloradans face unique challenges during gray divorce

Gray divorce, or divorce among older couples, is becoming more common in the U.S. today and has its own set of challenges and rewards.

For many people, a divorce is one of life's most stressful events. They have to deal with the emotional heartache of a marriage failing, as well as other considerations like dividing marital property and negotiating parenting plans. Divorce can be particularly challenging for older Colorado residents, even though they may no longer need to worry about child support or custody arrangements. This type of split is known as a gray divorce, and it is becoming increasingly popular for those in middle age and beyond.

In fact, states National Public Radio, those over the age of 50 are twice as likely today to end a marriage as people of the same age were two decades ago. One out of every 10 people over age 50 sought divorces in 1990, while the number has risen to one in four today.

Why are more seniors divorcing now?

Older Americans who divorce often do so for the same reasons that younger couples do. They may argue frequently, not get along or simply stop loving each other. Some couples find that after the children have grown and moved out of the house, they do not have enough things in common to keep them invested in the marriage. Also, many women today have more opportunities to succeed on their own financially than they did in decades past, so they know they do not have to endure in an unhappy relationship.

However, this does not mean that gray divorce is easy. According to the Washington Times, older people ending their marriages face difficulties that can be different from those of younger couples. They have had more time to accrue significant financial assets that now must be divided, such as the family home, vacation houses, vehicles, pensions and retirement accounts. A couple may have built a family business together, which would now need to be sorted out. Social Security retirement benefits also might fall into the property division bracket.

Additionally, it can be difficult for an older person to find new employment, especially if he or she is attempting to re-enter the workforce after many years. This is especially common for women, after they spent their marriages raising the children and looking after the home. Many older people also face medical problems that are more difficult to handle, financially and emotionally, on their own.

This does not mean that it is always a bad thing to suddenly become single later in life. The Denver Post shared the story of a Niwot woman who ended her marriage after 17 years. She said that when she neared 50, she realized she didn't want to be stuck for the rest of her life with someone she didn't love anymore. Her greatest challenges were learning how to manage the everyday things around her home that she would previously leave up to her husband. She went on to earn a master's degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

With careful planning, the benefits of a gray divorce can outweigh the disadvantages. Bankrate suggests consulting a financial planner or tax professional to help with dividing assets accrued during the marriage and transferring retirement funds in a way that does not hurt either spouse during tax time. It may also help to speak with an attorney who has experience handling gray divorces.

Keywords: gray, divorce, retirement, assets, property