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Grey Divorce

Much has been written lately on the “Grey Divorce” – a term used to describe (nicely or not so nicely) parties over the age of 50 who are getting divorced.  Here are some ways that skilled divorce attorneys approach the so called Grey Divorce compared to other more ‘traditional’ divorce scenarios:

  • Grey divorces are not necessarily more expensive.  The cost of a divorce is primarily driven by time spent in court, conflict between the spouses, unreasonable attorneys or parties, and assets which are more complex to value (such as businesses that need to be valued and pensions, verses bank accounts that can be easily divided).
  • Child related issues rarely need to be dealt with – custody, parenting time, child support, etc. rarely come into play in a grey divorce, as the majority of the time the children are already fully grown and emancipated. However, there may be issues that need to be addressed during the divorce pertaining to outstanding debt associated with the child(ren)’s education, including parent plus loans and/or one or both of the parties being listed as a co-signer on student loans.
  • There may be significant assets to divide. If the parties have been married for a long period of time they may have accumulated a lot of “stuff” as well as significant financial assets (including retirement accounts and real estate) during their marriage.
  • Pensions and Social Security may need to be considered. In addition to any retirement accounts either party has accumulated, one or both of the parties may have received a pension (which may or may not be in payment status at the time of the divorce). When dividing the pension of a party to divorce, it is imperative to consider the social security benefits which both of the parties may be (or may not be) entitled to, as well as the option chosen by the recipient.
  • Parties to a grey divorce are often at the peak of their earning potential or already retired. Both of these circumstances create legal challenges regarding the interplay of division of assets and alimony or spousal support. Typically, neither party to a grey divorce has much opportunity to begin a new career or advance their current career much further. 
  • Financial “need” is especially important to weigh in grey divorces.  Oftentimes, retirement assets are insufficient to fund the retirements of both parties and/or the spousal support payor is near or past retirement age. In these cases, alimony and spousal support decisions are extra important.
  • The date that alimony should terminate may not be clear.  The issue of the length or termination date of an alimony obligation can be more complicated for parties divorcing when one or both of them are close to, or in some cases beyond, full retirement age.
  • Medical insurance may still be an issue. Even for parties who are eligible for Medicare at the time of the divorce, there are usually still concerns over payment for supplemental insurance which will need to be addressed.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce, or are already involved in a divorce and are unaware of your legal rights, it is important that you speak with an attorney who concentrates in the field of domestic relations law to ensure that all of your rights are preserved.

  1. There are no punitive damages. Not for extra-marital affairs, not for being the spouse seeking the divorce, and generally not for other conduct unless it has a significant impact on the health or finances of the parties or children.

 

  1. What goes around comes around. If you disparage your spouse to your children and to others in order to cause pain to your spouse, it is likely to cause significant long term pain to your children, and ultimately to you as well, causing wounds which may never heal. More about how to handle divorce with your children in Silver Linings, the book.

 

  1. Alimony is gender neutral. For the successful higher earning men and women of Massachusetts, you may pay alimony to your soon to be ex in a divorce.

 

  1. You can’t have it both ways. An equitable divorce in the eyes of the law may be one in which both parties walk away feeling unhappy.   For every benefit there is generally a corresponding burden. Your idea of “fair” may not comport with the Court’s view of fairness.

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  1. You can’t “stop” a divorce. We have no fault divorce in Massachusetts.   If one spouse wants a divorce, a divorce will be granted, even over the objections of the other.

I am a divorce attorney. I help clients restructure their lives after they have decided to divorce. I don’t cause divorce or advocate divorce; I do my best to help people in pain try to put their lives back together and establish a “new normal”. I have the privilege of making a difference to people who are in transition.

Each time I hear divorce described as a “broken” family or a “broken” home, I shudder.

Divorce is nothing more than restructuring of lives and families into two homes instead of one. The parties to a divorce and their children all remain whole—their family just looks different. Divorce is a decision—sometimes voluntary and sometimes involuntary. It is no different than any other decision in one’s life, but it can be one fraught with anxiety and concern.

It presents emotional, financial and legal challenges. It causes wounds that often take time to heal. But people, and families, move on and they do heal. They restructure. Parents and children from divorced homes are no less healthy or dysfunctional than parents and children from intact homes.

When a couple makes the decision to divorce, it disrupts the status quo. Decisions must be made, and there are many interests to protect. Most people have no experience with divorce before it happens to them. As a divorce attorney, I guide clients through one of the most difficult experiences they will ever encounter. There are more questions than answers. Where will everyone live? How will the children be cared for? How will we decide parenting time with the children? How much will each parent provide in financial support and for how long? Who will pay for college? How will medical and dental insurance be provided for the family? Will there be life insurance protection if one parent dies? How will the family home, retirement plans and other assets be divided? Who will assume the debts and mortgages? If circumstances change in future years, how will that affect our rights and responsibilities?

I am proud to be a lawyer, and proud to represent men and women from all walks of life in restructuring their families during and after divorce. At Ryan Faenza Carey, our attorneys offer patience, understanding, and sensitivity. We provide competent, professional guidance for our clients through the emotionally charged journey of divorce, with a view toward arriving at a prompt and amicable settlement wherever possible, so that our clients’ lives may begin anew.

Which One is Right for You?

Realizing that your marriage has ended is a difficult decision. In Massachusetts, you have two alternatives to an official divorce, and we at RFC take care to help our clients understand the benefits and disadvantages of each option they have available. Here are two alternatives to filing for divorce—and some of the things to know before choosing a path.

Legal Separation, or Separate Support in Massachusetts

Clients sometimes ask whether a “legal separation” is a viable option, oftentimes searching for a less permanent trial period to determine if their marriage is truly over. However, Massachusetts does not recognize “legal separation.” Instead, individuals in the Commonwealth have the option to file a Complaint for Separate Support if the client and his/her spouse are living apart due to a justifiable cause like abuse, adultery, or desertion. A Separate Support agreement is different from divorce in that it will not end the marriage, but will merely provide for a spouse’s financial support while the parties are living separate and apart.

While a Separate Support agreement may be an ideal situation for some, it is typically not the most ideal method of moving a divorce forward. After receiving an Order or Judgment for Separate Support, an individual will need to essentially start over and go through a similar process to obtain a permanent divorce. Further, there are no protections relating to property rights in a Separate Support action, and the length of marriage continues, which could impact alimony calculations if and when the couple gets a divorce.

Filing for divorce is not permanent until the case goes to Judgment; the parties may reconcile and dismiss the Divorce Complaint at any time prior to Judgment.

Annulment

A Complaint for Annulment is a request that the Court find your marriage was never legal. Annulments are not common in Massachusetts and only apply in limited circumstances. To grant an annulment, the Court must determine that your marriage is either “void,” or “voidable.” Annulments are not quicker nor easier than filing for divorce.

A marriage can be deemed ‘void’ if:

  1. You were already married to someone else when you got married; or
  2. You marry a close relative, either by blood or marriage.

Additionally, sometimes a marriage may be deemed “voidable,” for the following reasons, although not guaranteed:

  1. One of the spouses did not have the mental capacity to consent to marriage at the time
  2. One of the spouses is not physically capable of sexual intercourse
  3. One of the spouses was not old enough to get married
  4. There was fraud involved in initiating the marriage.

While it is a personal, and often times very difficult decision to file for divorce, unfortunately the Separate Support/annulment processes are not any less complicated options. Typically, divorce is the only means to properly uncouple yourself from your spouse. Whatever your circumstances, you should speak with counsel prior to filing any Complaint to ensure that you fully understand your options. Questions about how to proceed? Our attorneys at Ryan Faenza Carey are always available for consultation. Contact us today.