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A 'gray' divorce presents unique complexities

Divorce was once seen as taboo, especially for those who had been married a long time. However, these days divorce is much more socially acceptable and even couples who had been married for decades may decide that, as life went on, they became incompatible and it is best they go their separate ways. In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that "gray divorces" -- that is, divorces of people age 50 or over -- have grown twofold over the previous 25 years. However, as some Waukegan couples may find, the longer a couple is married, the more complex their divorce might be.

For starters, some couples may decide to enter into a legal separation before ultimately divorcing. Part of this is for each spouse's own protection. For example, if a couple is living apart and there is no formal, legal separation or divorce, each spouse will still be responsible for any debts their ex takes on even though they aren't living together anymore. Moreover, unless a couple has legally separated or divorced, if one of them becomes incapacitated, the other can make important decisions regarding their ex's medical care and finances, which may be undesirable.

In addition, once an older couple decides to divorce, they'll have to face the property division process and, for many couples, one of their largest assets is the family home. Sometimes the family home isn't much of an issue. Both parties are ready to move on and agree to put the family home up for sale and then divide the proceeds. Other times, however, one or both spouses will have a deep emotional attachment to the family home. In this situation, the party keeping the home will have to buy out the other party's share, oftentimes dipping into retirement accounts to do so.

As this shows, a "gray divorce" can be a complex divorce. Couples will want to protect their interests from the moment they decide to separate, so seeking the advice of an attorney may be imperative.

Source: Reuters, "Your Money: Older couples ponder financial impact of divorce," Beth Pinsker, April 26, 2017

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