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Will a gray divorce leave you struggling?

It may be a great relief to hear that the rate of divorce across the country has been declining in recent decades. However, if you are 50 years or older, you should not be so quick to celebrate. The rate of divorce for your age group, known as "gray divorce," is climbing, and it is leaving many unprepared spouses facing a difficult road ahead.

The course of your marriage may leave you unsurprised to be facing divorce. You may have even discussed breaking up at earlier points in your relationship, but the time and circumstances never seemed right. Now as you near retirement, you and your spouse may be emotionally ready, but it is critical that you make sure you are also financially stable enough to take this serious step.

Why now?

If you are a baby boomer, you grew up in an era where many children learned to pursue whatever made them happy. If you are unhappy in your marriage, you may be looking for something different. With a greater life expectancy and better health care, you may be unwilling to spend your retirement years in an unfulfilling relationship, especially if your spouse is not as physically active as you are.

In fact, there may be other reasons you and your spouse have grown apart. Perhaps one or both of you already have another love interest, or you have different perspectives about how to spend the retirement money you have saved so carefully. That retirement money will become an important factor in your divorce.

Dividing your assets

Your financial situation will determine the quality of your post-divorce life. Your future depends on a combination of the division of your joint assets, your own ability to earn money, your spousal support settlement and the level of debt with which you are left. Your joint assets include anything you and your spouse acquired during your marriage, with a few exceptions. Since Virginia is an equitable division state, the court will divide your assets and debts in a way that is fair but not necessarily equal.

You may leave this division of property to a judge who will use a formula based on the length of your marriage and other factors to reach an equitable ruling. On the other hand, you and your spouse may be more inclined to settle these matters on your own. If you choose to settle out of court, it is critical that each of you obtains legal representation. You will want an attorney who understands both the process of alternative dispute resolution and the implications of a gray divorce.

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