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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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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