THE BLOG

The Gray Divorce

03/06/2013 01:33 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2013

As our population gets older, we are not only seeing a growing interest in "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- we're also seeing an increase in gray divorce.

Gray divorce concerns with anyone over fifty. There are issues facing older divorcing couples that younger couples do not have to worry about. Following are several issues that the gray divorcing couple should be aware of.

1. When do you plan to retire? Retirement issues loom large in any divorce for someone in his or her mid-fifties and beyond.

2. What will you do with your 401K or pension benefits? As you are closer to retirement, your benefits become a much larger issue. It is harder to rebuild and replenish an IRA or 401K as you approach retirement age. Remember that in a divorce, these assets are all subject to division.

3. How long will you be paying spousal support/alimony? This is a huge issue. In a marriage of 30 or more years -- which is common for a divorcing couple in their mid fifties or early sixties -- questions are often asked about spousal support/alimony. In a long term marriage of 25 or 30 years or more, many courts will order alimony until death, the remarriage of a spouse, or further order by the court. What does this actually mean? If you are in your mid-fifties or older and approaching retirement age, it might mean 5 or 10 years or even less.

4. Does retirement impact the obligation to pay alimony? Will alimony automatically end upon retirement? Will it be modified? These are important issues. In some cases, retirement can trigger the end of alimony but that is only where there is full time retirement and not just switching from one job to another. These issues are subject to negotiation and court rulings.

5. What is the impact on social security? In a long-term marriage where spouses are approaching social security ages or are receiving it, social security can become an issue. Social security cannot actually be divided but it can be set off against other income or assets and it can be equalized. With younger couples this is not an issue but with gray divorce, it can definitely have an impact.

6. What if a spouse is offered an early retirement package or a cash buyout instead of a pension over a period of years? Many companies are now offering buyouts of pensions or are pushing people into earlier retirement. You may need to consider the impact of this if you are going through a divorce.

7. Should you sell or keep you house? In the past, a home was a major asset that was part of a divorce settlement. Now, with huge debts and the housing market having tumbled, keeping or selling a house is an issue, especially if that was to be your retirement home.

8. Can you afford to get a divorce? This is an important question for a couple approaching, or in, retirement years. Remember that when you divide assets and income or retirement benefits, there is often not enough to go around. These issues are important and should be carefully considered.

9. Can you obtain a job? This is so important for people who have been out of the work force for many, many years in a long-term marriage. After age 50, it is very hard to find employment after you've been out of the job market for a number of years. This must be a consideration in gray divorce as well.

Divorces are more and more common for empty nesters, people approaching retirement, and retirees. Counseling should always be looked at and thoroughly explored. Divorce should be the last resort, not the first. The gray divorcing couples have important issues to consider that differ from younger couples. These are some of my thoughts. What are yours?