Divorcing Your Partner After a Long Term Marriage




The divorce rate among couples over 50 is steadily rising. This trend is referred to as the “gray divorce”.

When this type of client comes to see me they frequently have a long term marriage, with a life time of accumulated wealth, in real property, savings, investments and retirement accounts.

Every relationship is different, but some of the reasons that these long term marriages end include:

1. Lack of common interests or compatibility. The parties have grown apart after years of pursuing their own interests and hobbies, separate from each other. They may have very different friends and social groups. One party may have acquired additional education after the marriage and may have moved on to a different social group.

2. End of moral obligation. Some “gray divorce” couples stayed together through an unhappy marriage until their children were adults, believing that it was important to maintain a more stable home environment for their children. I find this is more prevalent in “gray divorce” than younger couple. Younger couples may feel that divorce is more socially acceptable; their children may have friends whose parents are divorced.

3. Pain. Clients over 70 who have made the decision to divorce their long term spouse frequently have a strong emotional component associated with the decision. Some have suffered many years of abuse:


and just want to live out the rest of their life free from the abuse. They understand that the division of their assets will likely force them to live at a much lower standard of living, but they have reached the point where it is more painful to stay in the relationship than to leave and face the financial consequences.

4. If you find yourself in a “Gray Divorce”, it is important to take the time to plan for your future and seek financial advice as well as legal advice from an attorney who is a certified specialist in family law.

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(California Custody and Visitation in a Coronavirus/COVID-19 World)

Many California parents are scared and confused when they think about sending their child to visit with the other parent when they are separated or divorced from that parent.

Can you deny visitation to the other parent while your community is sheltering in place?

Do you have a court ordered visitation schedule? If so, you should comply with this schedule, unless you have obtained a modification of that order.

What modifications could you consider requesting?

Modifications may include limiting the days or the length of time the other parent spends with the child, or alternatively, requesting the court make an order that visitation will take place by phone or Facetime/Zoom.

Make sure you have a valid reason for requesting this change. Denying a child access to their other parent may increase fear, anxiety and depression in your child.

Having a generalized fear (due to the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic) of your child leaving your home to visit with their other parent, will not likely be enough to change a court ordered visitation schedule.

You will need to show there is an actual danger to your child at the other parent’s house.

If you file a motion without good cause, the court may decide that there is no more danger in the other parent’s household than in your household and you may lose some of your parenting time.

If you have questions or concerns about child custody or visitation during this time, consult with an attorney who is a certified specialist in family law.

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How Do I Know if I Am Separated From my Spouse?

Upset woman standing with man in background at home. Mature couple having relationship difficulties.

Am I Separated?

One of the first issues I discuss when I meet with a client is their “date of separation”. Most people know their date of marriage, but the date they separated from their spouse can be more difficult to determine.

A lot is riding on this date as the accumulation of community property, such as an interest in financial and retirement accounts, can be affected by the date of separation.

Also, the duration of spousal support can be impacted by the length of a marriage.

Effective January 1, 2017, there is a new California Family Code §70 that defines “date of separation”.

Section 70 states, in part, that ‘“Date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following:

(1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage. ”

Example: Secretly deciding that you no longer want to be married and taking actions without your wife or husband’s knowledge does not mean that you are “separated”.

“(2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage.”

Example: one spouse has opened a new bank account in their name only.

Another example: one spouse moves out of the residence. Although living separately is not required to be considered “separated”.

Some spouses continue to live together until their divorce is completed and the community property assets are divided. It may be too expensive to live separately, while the assets are still undivided.

For instance, if the parties anticipate selling the family residence, they may continue to live there until the home is sold and the funds divided between them.

This would not work if there are issues of domestic violence or one of the spouses wants to live with a new partner.

California Family Code §70 also contains a provision that states: “In determining the date of separation, the court shall take into consideration all relevant evidence.”

Everyone’s story is unique and there may be circumstances where one spouse thought they were separated and the other did not.

It is important to obtain legal advice early concerning your “date of separation”, to avoid mistakes that could cause you to lose spousal support or community property assets that you might otherwise be entitled.

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Don’t Tell Grandma About Your Divorce

Mid adult woman talking with her mother at home.
Advice from Friends and Family

Family gatherings can be a tough time for you when you are going through a divorce, or have a child custody, visitation or support dispute with your partner.

Did you talk about your divorce or family law problems at your last family get together?

If so, your family and friends may be showering you with well meaning, and potentially harmful, advice.

Be careful if they tell you to:

-–Stop working full-time, change to part-time, to avoid paying support to your spouse or partner;

-–Take your spouse’s name off all your bank accounts; or move all the money to hide it from your spouse until the divorce is over;

–Change your beneficiaries on all your life insurance policies;

-–Terminate your spouse or partner from your health insurance;

–Incur new debt (car loan/credit card ) so you can reduce your support; or,

–Have a family member contact your spouse or partner to let them know they better accept your settlement proposal or else.

Once you settle with your spouse or partner, resist the urge to discuss the details of any settlement in your case. Your friends and relatives don’t have all the details of your case and may be very emotionally invested in getting a specific result for you.

Mistakes early in your divorce or family law matter can cost you money, including money you may have to pay your spouse or partner’s attorney in addition to your own attorney.

Speaking to an experienced family law attorney may help you avoid costly mistakes.


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Finding Your Inner Peace During A Divorce


Do not let the behavior of others

destroy your inner peace – The Dalai Lama

So many times clients contact me for help about the behavior of their former spouse or partner.

Thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs are spent each year by parties who just want to feel at peace again in their lives.

They may believe that forcing their ex to change his or her behavior towards them will make them feel better or improve their lives.

They file requests with the court to demand that their ex change.

In some cases, the other person is well aware of the pain they are causing to their former spouse/partner. Their conduct may be calculated to create distress and push buttons, as a form of retaliation for circumstances surrounding the breakup of the relationship, or as a calculated maneuver to reach a goal in the division of marital property or child custody or support.

Other times, this person has moved on and is completely oblivious to the pain of the other party.

Regardless of the reason, you do yourself no favors by dwelling on the conduct of this other person and in fact, will likely cause yourself to incur substantial additional legal fees and costs chasing the dream that one day there will be a substantial change in their behavior towards you.

You must look for a way to find your own inner peace and realize that many more have come this way before you and have survived and even thrived in their new lives.

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