It’s a startling trend – a sharp jump in the number of “gray” divorces, that is, divorces among couples age 50 and older. Could your own marriage be in trouble? Could your savings and retirement accounts be at risk? If you are involved in a “gray” divorce, what should you know, and what must you do? Keep reading, and you’ll learn what every married person in Indiana needs to know.

It is not easy to divorce a partner of thirty or more years, but if that is your decision – or your spouse’s decision – before you take any action, consult an experienced Lake County divorce attorney. You will get honest and sound legal advice specific to your own circumstances. A good divorce lawyer will explain all of your options and protect your rights and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Gray divorces are different in several ways. When younger couples divorce, they still have one or two decades to pursue a career and build retirement funds. But when couples who divorce are in their 50s and 60s, their careers are winding down – or they’re over – and some people at that age are already living on Social Security payments and/or the retirement benefits they earned when they were younger.

WHAT ELSE MAKES “GRAY” DIVORCE SO CHALLENGING?

The financial aspects of a divorce can present considerable challenges for divorcing couples who are at or near retirement age. An experienced Lake County divorce attorney will consider a client’s retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, and health insurance costs, and will fight aggressively to protect that client’s rights, assets, and interests throughout an Indiana divorce proceeding.

Another difference between gray divorces and younger divorces is the role of the children. Child custody and child support, of course, are rarely part of a gray divorce. Instead, adult children sometimes try to place themselves in the middle of a divorce proceeding and demand “a say” in how the divorce is settled.

If there is any suspicion that an adult child is manipulating a parent for personal gain in a divorce, competency may become an issue for the court. It’s smart if you try not to lean on your adult children during a divorce. A friend closer to your own age – with no direct emotional or financial stake in your divorce – can listen to you with more understanding and objectivity.

WHAT HAPPENS TO RETIREMENT FUNDS IN A DIVORCE?

Every divorce divides the assets and property that a couple has acquired during the marriage. Homes, other real estate holdings, vehicles, family businesses, and all varieties of personal property are divided in the divorce procedure, but some of the largest assets a couple may have after a lengthy marriage are retirement funds and benefits that one or both partners have built up throughout the marriage.

In most Indiana divorces, pensions and retirement accounts are evenly divided, but the full value of a retirement plan or a pension is not always marital property – and thus is not always subject to division. Only the retirement funds acquired during the marriage are subject to division. An experienced Indiana divorce lawyer can see to it that the retirement funds that are rightfully yours are protected and remain yours in a divorce.

Even if you and your spouse carefully planned for the future while you were married, after a divorce, it is usually best to create a new estate plan “from scratch.” You will need to make some adjustments if you no longer want your ex to be named in your will or named as a beneficiary of any accounts or insurance policies. You should also update any and all medical care and trust documents appropriately.

WHAT ABOUT THE NON-LEGAL SIDE OF DIVORCE – THE EMOTIONAL SIDE?

If you’re over fifty, and you are divorcing, your attorney will handle the legal and financial side of the divorce, but you also must consider the emotional side. Here too, a gray divorce differs from a younger divorce.

These are some recommendations that have helped others through the transition in their 50s and 60s:

Stand up for yourself. Your finances and your plans for the future are your business and no one else’s, so do not cave in to pressure or intimidation from your ex, or even from your children.

Make new friends. Join clubs and organizations. Volunteer. Take the time to enjoy some recreational pursuits.

Why not start dating again? Even if there’s no “chemistry,” you’re still making friends, and you’re old enough to know that you can never have too many of those.

Forgive yourself. We have all made mistakes earlier in our lives, but what matters is moving forward in a positive and constructive way.

According to researchers at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for those age fifty and above doubled in the United States from 1990 to 2010. The “gray” divorce rate right now is about fifteen percent. In a world that views marriage quite differently from the way the world viewed it fifty years ago, some people in their 50s and 60s now want to explore more of life and the world and more of their own interests.

HOW CAN A DIVORCE LAWYER HELP WITH YOUR GRAY DIVORCE?

If you are divorcing at any age, understanding what to expect can eliminate confusion and allow you to concentrate on the issues. Before you enter a courtroom, be prepared. Have your attorney answer all of your questions. Read as much of the paperwork associated with the case as you can. You’ll have more confidence, and you’ll be able to give your divorce attorney more help as the case proceeds.

Telling the truth is imperative. Any exaggeration, misrepresentation, or deception will damage your case and your credibility in the courtroom. Prior to an Indiana divorce proceeding, the partners must complete a number of documents verifying their assets, incomes, properties, and expenses. Even if it’s painful, you must fill out these forms accurately and honestly. Your divorce lawyer will help.

Of course, every divorce is difficult, and like so much in life, when you’re older, it’s a little more difficult. If you are over fifty and you are divorcing in Indiana, you must have the advice and services of an experienced Lake County divorce attorney – someone who will fight vigorously on your behalf while guiding you through the divorce process.