Married at twenty-two right after college graduation, Wife pursued a career until the first child was born. Husband worked at an entry level job until his potential was recognized and his career path was established. After the lean years when the couple bought their first home and worked hard to economize and save money, Husband climbed the corporate ladder and Wife aided his efforts by taking care of the children and running the household. No financial need for Wife to return to work, so she enjoyed the fruits of Husband’s labor. When the children went to college, Husband and Wife realized that they had little personal connection, other than the children, and neither of them wanted to stay in the relationship any longer. This is gray divorce.
He was a musician and she was a medical student. They met at a concert and married 3 weeks later. Wife continued her studies with the help of student loans and Husband provided some income from infrequent musical gigs. Wife completed medical school and residency and joined a clinical practice. They had two children during this time and Husband cared for them. Wife had a thriving practice but spent little time with the family. At age 60, Wife decided that she wanted to live a different life style. This is an example of gray divorce.
The finances of gray divorce seem simple. If a marriage begins in a couple’s younger years, premarital assets are few. Most of the assets have been acquired during the marriage. Likewise, any debt is usually marital debt. In this case, the common solution is to divide assets and debt equally because both Husband and Wife have been parties to the marriage. If both Husband and Wife have a history of employment outside the home, this solution may be a viable one.
Complications arise because long term plans are disrupted and one party may seem to be at a disadvantage financially. IRA’s, 401Ks, and pensions come into question. To whom do these assets belong? If the marital home has a mortgage, who can refinance? Rental property or a second home may be solutions or further complications. Social security payments or anticipated payments may be a part of the picture. How are contributions to the marriage that are non-monetary valued?
Mediation can ease the gray divorce financial situation by helping participants enter the next phase of their lives feeling secure because they have a custom made plan for their future. The participants have life experience and being of a certain age, understand the importance of financial planning and financial limitations. The mediator can encourage creative thinking and productive communication. Mediation in a gray divorce situation promises a new way of life for both Husband and Wife.