Should I get a grey divorce?

Apr 22, 2023
Source: Getty

While the rate of divorces seems to have levelled out or in some countries even fallen in recent times, it has surprisingly risen sharply amongst couples over the age of 60 across the world, giving rise to the commonly used term “grey divorce.” 

Common Reasons for Grey Divorce

Some of the most common reasons for grey divorce today are:

    • Growing apart – After a lifetime of pursuing careers, running a home and raising children, older couples, now around retirement time, suddenly realise that they have little in common and have simply grown apart.
    • Empty nest syndrome – After the kids have left home, some couples who may have already been in an unsatisfactory marriage, feel that there’s no need to remain married “for the sake of the children”.
    • Different lifestyles – Couples develop different interests and lifestyles, which can create some tension between them later in life. 
    • Financial adjustment – Retired couples can find it difficult to adjust their spending to match their reduced income, leading to financial woes and potential arguments or conflict.
    • Lack of Intimacy – If one partner is no longer physically interested in the other, frustration can arise from a lack of intimacy.
    • Less stigma – Being divorced no longer holds the same stigma as it did in the past, with divorce becoming much more commonplace and acceptable in today’s world.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Considering A Grey Divorce

How Will My Finances Be Impacted?

No matter what your financial position may be, divorcing will most certainly have a financial impact, and needs to be considered very carefully. You both may be in, or close to, retirement which means a likely decline in earnings and a rise in living expenses may be expected.

A financial audit and drawing up a projected budget may be necessary to establish the full extent a grey divorce may have on your finances. Here’s a great tool to help you work out your current financial position.

What Lifestyle Changes Might Need To Be Made?

Unless you’re in the top percentage of income earners, lifestyle changes will almost certainly need to be made. Doing a financial audit and setting a new budget will give you a fair indication of what your new lifestyle as a single person could look like and will guide the potential lifestyle changes that might need to be considered.

Much of course will depend on whether you keep the family home or move elsewhere, what your share of the asset pool will be once divided, and what your financial situation will look like after your grey divorce.

Will My Centrelink Payments Change?

They most certainly can change when you have a change in relationship status.

You need to inform Centrelink of any changes to your marital status. Depending on the payment type and rates, you may be entitled to a bigger sum as a single person than when you were married, but either way, you do need to inform Services Australia of your separation.

Will My Pension Payments Change?

Pension payments can be such a complicated matter, as much depends upon your own circumstances, and how your superannuation is handled when the asset pool is divided during the divorce proceedings.

If you had a binding financial agreement in place, it would provide more clarity, but if no BFA is available, legal and financial advice will certainly be necessary.

How Much Will The Grey Divorce Process Cost?

Grey divorces often follow long-term marriages with relatively large asset pools and have the potential to become highly contentious, drawn-out and extremely costly affairs, if done through the courts.

There is no way of knowing exactly how much your divorce process may cost until you consult a family lawyer. And even then, costs can escalate expeditiously, if the case is allowed to drag on for months or even years.

It’s not uncommon for grey divorcees to want to divorce quickly so they can start to build a new life in their twilight years, and mediation can be a helpful way to keep your divorce costs low and the process as quick as possible.

Where Will I Live? 

This may be one of the most daunting tasks you will have to address before proceeding with the divorce. You may end up staying in your current home, or you may choose to sell up and split the proceeds, then buy or rent a home elsewhere on your own.

This is not an easy decision to make, but doing your financial audit and new budget can help you work out what option is the most financially feasible one for you and your partner.

How Might The Grey Divorce Process Affect My Physical Health?

Divorce is a most traumatic and stressful process that can cause havoc with our health, and this can be even more so in grey divorces.

Stress can trigger numerous physical changes in our bodies, like insomnia, and high blood pressure. Unless treated early, stress can also lead to other medical conditions being triggered, and when you’re 60 plus, more medical issues are not what you want in life.

Being prepared and adopting a healthy lifestyle of eating healthily and exercising regularly during this painful period will be vital to maintaining good physical health.

How Might The Grey Divorce Process Affect My Mental Health?

Your mental health may also take a hit during this emotionally draining process.

You may be overwhelmed with feelings of shock, anger, loneliness, disappointment, embarrassment and apprehension of the unknown that lies ahead. Each of these emotions is capable of leading you to a seemingly-constant state of anxiety and possibly even depression.

Being aware of the possible effects on your mental health may prepare you to deal with them and have the necessary support system in place to get you through this difficult period in your life.

Who Can I Rely On To Support Me Through My Grey Divorce?

Living alone after a long-term marriage certainly has its challenges, and we recommend relying on close friends and family for support whenever you’re feeling low – there is always someone out there who can listen and help you.

Whatever you do, try to remain socially active as much as possible, and be around your loved ones, especially during the early stages of separation.

Can We Divorce & Stay Friends?

Divorcing amicably can be beneficial to both spouses in so many ways. Reaching an amicable settlement sets the tone for a polite post-divorce relationship with your ex.
This makes life so much easier for you and the whole family, especially at events like family functions that you both may be invited to attend.

The last thing you both need is to have a long drawn-out contentious divorce, causing much unnecessary stress and costing you both thousands of dollars that could otherwise have gone into your asset pool. If you both want to achieve that, there is a far better way of divorcing amicably and avoiding the courts altogether – family mediation.

Mediation is by far the quickest, least costly and least stressful way of divorcing in Australia. Unlike a court procedure where you each hire a lawyer to argue on your behalf, in mediation the costs of one mediator are fixed at the beginning and can be shared between the two parties.

The mediator explains both your legal rights and obligations thus removing any tension that may exist, enabling you both to negotiate towards finding a workable and amicable settlement that suits your individual needs.

If you want to get a grey divorce, move on quickly and stay friendly with your ex, family mediation is usually the best step you can take.

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