Gray Divorce: Some Issues to Consider


By: Joseph DiPiazza, Esq.

If you are over 50 and getting a divorce, you are not alone. The “gray divorce” phenomenon refers to the increasing number of people who divorce later in life. As the social stigma surrounding divorce has gradually diminished over the years, it has not led to an overall increase in the divorce rate, except among people over age 50.

Although a gray divorce is not likely to involve the complex issues of custody, child support, or parenting time of minor children, parties to a senior divorce often face unique and challenging issues, including the availability of Social Security benefits, healthcare, and spousal support:

1. Social Security Benefits: Knowing the rules on divorced spousal benefits and remarriage can have a substantial impact on your Social Security payments. Here are four simple guidelines to keep in mind:

a) 10 years = Eligible

• If you were married for ten years, you may be eligible to receive spousal Social Security Benefits or survivor benefits based on your ex-spouse’s working record. A spousal benefit is equal to 50% of the primary worker’s payment if you start taking benefits at your Full Retirement Age (FRA) generally 66 or 67, depending on when you were born). If your ex-spouse was a high earner, it is possible that half of his/her benefit is larger than your own. In this case, it makes sense to claim a spousal benefit, even if you are divorced. For divorcees who survive their ex-, the survivor benefit is equal to the full benefit due to the primary worker.

b) Remarriage Matters

• You are not eligible for spousal benefits related to your ex- if you remarry. However, if you remarry and a second marriage ends in divorce (or widowhood), you can claim benefits from either spouse’s record, as long as the marriages lasted at least ten years. Remarriage rules are less stringent in the case of survivor benefits. If you remarry after age 60, the remarriage will not affect your eligibility for survivor benefits.

c) Age Matters

• You must be at least 62 before you can claim any spousal benefits on an ex-’s record. If you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can start taking benefits even if your ex- has yet to apply for payments themselves. For a divorce less than two years old, standard benefit rules apply—this means spousal benefits cannot be claimed until the primary wage earner applies for their own benefits. If your ex-spouse is deceased, you can collect survivor benefits as early as age 60.

d) Patience Matters

• If you decide to take a spousal benefit before your FRA, your 50% benefit will be reduced – permanently – for every year you claim early. By waiting to claim benefits until you reach your FRA, you will also receive the ability to choose between your own benefit or your ex-‘s.

2. Healthcare: For couples who are divorcing late in life, health insurance can become a major issue. That is because insurance for older people is generally more expensive than for the young, and individual policies are usually more expensive than group policies provided by employers. If the newly ineligible spouse does not yet qualify for Medicare, that spouse may be left without affordable health insurance options following the divorce. Parties to a gray divorce must consider the available options and cost of their post-divorce healthcare.

3. Spousal support: In those situations where one of the spouses in a gray divorce is still working, the non-working spouse has a strong claim to be entitled to a spousal support award unless the income from the assets being divided is so significant that the recipient spouse can meet his or her reasonable needs without financial assistance. While there is no formula or guideline to govern the amount and duration of spousal support, where the parties have been married for at least 20 years, New Jersey law supports an award of open durational alimony. However, there is still a rebuttable presumption that alimony terminates when the obligor spouse reaches full retirement age.

While there are other issues that may arise in gray divorces, considerations regarding Social Security Benefits, healthcare, and spousal support are quite common. Divorcing after age 50 requires the need for experienced assistance. Joseph DiPiazza, Esq. is an experienced advocate who is ready to assist you as you navigate the complexities of a gray divorce.

Call 201-494-2800 to schedule a Free Consultation at the Law Office of Joseph A. DiPiazza, LLC.