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Family & Divorce Law

Gray Divorce: a Colorado Guide to Divorcing After 50

By Tolison & Williams / June 8, 2021

Divorce is a stressful event at any time of life, but it may be even more so among spouses over 50. Because, apart from the emotional factors, gray divorce also carries additional legal complexity when it comes to asset division

What is Gray Divorce? 

Gray divorce is a colloquial term for divorces initiated later in life, typically after the age of fifty. Other common monikers include Silver Splitter or Diamond Divorcees. 

The 2021 separation of the Gates couple spurred conversations around divorces after 20 years of marriage. Indeed, the gray divorce statistics are rather sobering. While nationwide the divorce rate in America has been on a steady decline since the 1990s, older couples are an outlier among other demographics.

According to research by Bowling Green State University, over 10% of women aged 50+ in the US are divorced, up from just 4.9% in 1990. Colorado ranked as #15 among states with the highest gray divorce rates as of 2017. 

Why Do Couples Divorce After 40 Years of Marriage?

The reasons for late-life divorce are plentiful ranging from greater social acceptance, less traditional outlooks to the couple’s individual circumstances. Many empty nesters decide to start a new chapter in life during their silver years. Sometimes this decision means parting ways with a long-term spouse. 

In any case, a divorce after 50 years of marriage is a personal choice to make. However, before you move on to the divorce proceedings, it’s important to understand the implications of your decision. 


Divorcing After 50: Legal Aspects to Account For in Colorado 

Sometimes late-life divorce can feel liberating. Especially if you part with your spouse on good terms and can negotiate an amicable, uncontested divorce

Yet, the legal complexity of getting a gray divorce lies in asset division. During the decades together, you have likely accumulated shared marital property. Detangling shared assets can be complex, especially if one party doesn’t feel the same way as you do. 

The following section provides an overview of the important matters to consider. But remember, it’s best to consult a Colorado divorce attorney before making final decisions. 

Asset Division in Gray Divorce 

Couples divorcing after 10 or more years of marriage typically have a sizable marital property estate, consisting of the family home, secondary properties, cash accounts, pension funds, investment accounts, as well as other types of cash assets and joint benefits both of you are entitled to. 

Colorado is an equitable distribution state. This means each party is entitled to a “fair and equitable” part of marital property, which isn’t necessarily a 50/50 split. Thus, be prepared to negotiate asset distribution. Typically, keeping these matters out of court reduces the cost of divorce. A qualified attorney can help the couple work out a fair settlement and assist with valuations (if there is a need to sell some estate). An alternative option is undergoing mediation.

Learn more about asset division in Colorado from our comprehensive guide.

Debt Division in Gray Divorce 

Debts, accumulated during the marriage, are also considered marital property. Respectively, each spouse may have to take over a fraction of joint debts. 

However, not all debts can be classified as shared. For example, Colorado courts do not typically pass credit card debt accrued by one spouse to the other in secret. Thus, learn where you stand in terms of individual and shared debts. This can be done by pulling a credit report so that there are no surprises, and it's recommended that this is done before filing for divorce. 

Read more about the marital debt division in Colorado

Alimony (Spousal Support)

The cost of a solo life can be 40%-50% higher, compared to living as a couple. Hence, if the circumstances permit, a spouse can negotiate spousal maintenance payments. This is a common scenario among older couples, where one party focused on their career, while the other took over the household. 

In 2014, Colorado issued a new spousal maintenance act with recommended guidelines for determining the amount of alimony payments. The framework suggests calculating the allowance by first estimating 40% of the higher-earning party’s monthly adjusted gross income. Then subtracting 50% of the lower-earning party’s monthly adjusted gross income. 

The above, however, is a recommendation. You may be able to negotiate an alternative agreement during settlement, mediation, or in court.  


Other Issues Pertaining to Gray Divorce 

There are other personal factors to take into accounts such as child custody and visitation if you have young kids, as well as joint life insurance policies, trust, and investment accounts. The optimal way to understand the costs and implications of your divorce is to consult with a qualified divorce attorney. Reach out to the experts at Tolison and Williams with any questions today!

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Tags: Divorce Family Law

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