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From Green to Grey: Color Changes in Over-55 Divorces


In ye olden days, many couples over 55 whose marriages fell on hard times obtained “Irish divorces.” They remained legally married but lived separate lives. These separate lives often included separate households, a situation which created the married-filing-separately provision in the tax code.

Recently, however, divorce’s moral acceptability reached an all-time high. So, many older people who never considered marriage dissolution are now legally divorcing instead of informally separating. These grey divorces have some unique financial and emotional issues, as outlined below.

In case you’re wondering, voters in this traditionally Catholic country legalized divorce in 1995. A referendum passed by fewer than 10,000 votes.

Emotional Issues

Many older couples have adult children with young children of their own. Frequently, adult children have a hard time dealing with their parents’ divorce. Adults are not as emotionally resilient as children. Furthermore, adults have a lifetime of happy family memories to overcome.

So, many adult children blame one parent for the divorce. If that happens, they often retaliate by cutting off contact with a grandchild.

These grandparents might have legal visitation and access options. However, the parental presumption is very strong in the Sunshine State. This presumption lets parents choose where their children spend their time, at least in most cases.

Furthermore, many couples over 55 have older children at home. Generally, a teenager’s emotional needs are much different from a small child’s emotional needs. The parenting time plan must reflect these differences. So, traditional arrangements might not be in the best interest of the child.

Older children have different financial needs as well. The child support obligation must reflect these differences.

Financial Issues

Increased child support might be appropriate in these cases. Theoretically, residential parents build a financial reserve over time, enabling them to meet the increased expenses of teenage years. Since there is no reserve in grey divorce cases, the additional money must come from somewhere else.

The property division in a grey divorce is usually quite complex, mostly because many older couples have substantial marital assets. Some examples include:

  • Marital Residence: It’s not always a good idea to sell the marital home and divide the proceeds. Perhaps the market is depressed or perhaps the couple still has children at home. In these situations, the non-owner spouse often receives a lien for his or her share of the equity. That lien gets paid when the owner later sells the house.
  • Retirement Account: These accounts often have a substantial financial value. They have a substantial emotional value as well. They represent future security and a reward for financial sacrifice. Frequently, Port St. Lucie family law attorneys arrange for offsets. The owner spouse might agree to pay more spousal support in exchange for a larger share of a 401(k), IRA, or other retirement nest egg.

Florida is an equitable distribution state. The marital estate must be divided equitably between the spouses. That’s not necessarily the same thing as equally.

Connect with an Experienced Lawyer

Grey divorces involve some unique financial and emotional issues. For a free consultation with an experienced Port St. Lucie divorce lawyer, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters throughout the Treasure Coast area.


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