Divorce between spouses who are over the age of 50, also known as gray divorce, is gaining traction in Florida. There are some positive aspects to that trend (older couples are becoming more self-aware and less bound by tradition). But divorcing later in life also involves many misconceptions, resulting from Florida’s laws and procedures that can vary from other states.
In this blog post, we will explain why divorce among older couples is rising in Florida while debunking some common misconceptions and highlighting the importance of adequate legal representation in gray divorce cases. Start reading now!
Many people wonder why gray divorces are on the rise in Florida. Why would couples who were married for decades, nearing retirement after successful careers, and free from children who left the family nest – divorce in their 50s? Here are two possible reasons:
Couples over 50 today are Baby Boomers who were teenagers during the 70s and 80s. Unlike their parents, who belong to the so-called silent generation, Baby Boomers grew up when divorce became acceptable (and desirable) in unhappy relationships. For them, divorce seems like the only logical step in a marriage that does not fulfill them, especially after the children leave home.
Another reason is a longer lifespan compared to several decades ago. People in their 50s are healthier today and expect to live three or four decades more. Faced with the prospect of spending these years with the person they do not love, they choose another relationship or life as a single.
According to U.S. Vital Statistics Reports (from 1970, 1980, and 1990) and the American Community Survey (ACS) data from 2010 and 2019, gray divorce rates in Florida have doubled in the past three decades.
More than 60% of couples in second marriages divorce, meaning that most fall into the gray divorce category since people marrying a second or third time are typically older than 50.
As Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin put it, the gray divorce rate grew modestly between 1970 and 1990 and doubled in 2010. Since 2010, the rate has stagnated slightly among middle-aged adults, but it continued to grow among older adults. (Susan L Brown, Ph.D., I-Fen Lin, Ph.D., The Graying of Divorce: A Half Century of Change, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Volume 77, Issue 9, September 2022, Pages 1710–1720).
They add that 36% of divorced U.S. adults are 50 or older. The only age group with an increasing divorce rate is older than 65, raising concerns about how they will handle old age alone.
Some see them as a new beginning, while others consider them a failure in life. But almost everyone has a wrong perception about at least one aspect of gray divorce in Florida. Here are the most common misconceptions:
1. The Court Always Awards Alimony
When older couples divorce, the common assumption is that the court automatically grants alimony to one spouse. That is wrong. Florida laws provide the possibility of awarding the maintenance to the spouse in financial need. But no spouse has an unconditional right to alimony. When considering whether the low-income spouse deserves financial support, the courts must follow specific guidelines and asses various factors, such as the length of the marriage, contributions of each spouse (financial and non-financial), the standard of living, etc. The alimony is awarded only in cases where multiple circumstances justify financial support to a spouse with a lower life standard.
2. The Wife Always Receives Alimony
Unlike decades ago, the courts no longer automatically award alimony to wives. The gender roles are different, and so is the traditional image of a husband as an income earner. Today, many wives lead successful careers and fare much better financially than their husbands. Because courts must follow guidelines when awarding financial support to spouses, the husband who meets the alimony criteria will get the maintenance, contrary to widespread (wrong) belief.
3. Property is Always Divided 50/50
The court always divides property equally when an older couple divorces. That is another common misconception about gray divorce in the Sunshine State. Florida has an equitable distribution system where courts split marital property equitably but not always equally. The divorce judge considers many factors and can award more than half of the property to one spouse if that is fair based on the circumstances of the case.
4. The Court Divides Social Security Benefits
Contrary to popular belief, Social Security benefits are typically a separate property under Florida law. That means that courts do not divide them in a divorce. According to equitable distribution rules, each spouse retains their property, including Social Security benefits they earned during their working years.
5. Gray Divorces are Easier than Younger Divorces
Despite being true in some aspects, that assumption is generally inaccurate. Yes, gray divorces are less contentious and do not involve intense emotions. Older couples do not have to deal with custody and child support issues. After many years of unsatisfying marriage, they feel little resentment and anger. Both want to get on with their lives. But divorcing later in life is nevertheless a turning point for each spouse, emotionally and financially. Carrying on as a single or finding a new relationship in the 50s is hard. Besides, older couples have accumulated substantial assets during the years. Navigating complex issues around marital property division can be financially and emotionally draining. Finally, the studies show that late-life divorce is associated with poorer health and higher mortality risk. Divorced men feel lonelier than their peers whose partner died. The results are different with women – they do not feel as lonely as men after the divorce or death of their spouses. (Matthew R Wright, Anna M Hammersmith, Susan L Brown, I-Fen Lin, The Roles of Marital Dissolution and Subsequent Re-partnering on Loneliness in Later Life, Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, September 2020, pages 1796-1807).
Gray divorce in Florida is a challenging and life-changing event. Undergoing divorce later in life requires a thorough understanding of the legal processes and potential outcomes.
Dispelling common misconceptions about alimony, property division, and Social Security benefits can be time-consuming and confusing without quality legal representation. Individuals going through a gray divorce need reliable legal assistance to make informed decisions.
Are you one of many Florida couples undergoing a divorce in your 50s? Do you feel overwhelmed by misconceptions and uncertainties surrounding gray divorce? Do you fear you might risk your property rights in a late-life divorce?
If you share these and similar concerns, look no further than Brian Gilroy!
A founder of BKG Mediation, LLC, Mr. Gilroy is a premier family law attorney and Florida Supreme Court-certified family mediator from St. Petersburg, Florida.
His authority in family law matters is unmatched. His top-notch reputation comes from in-depth expertise, years of experience, and adherence to the highest professional and ethical norms.
Do not let late-life divorce lead to loneliness, isolation, and poor health. Allow Brian Gilroy to help you understand the most common misconceptions and navigate you from the gray waters of divorce into the golden years of retirement.
Are you ready to sail into the peaceful waters in good health and with the people you care about most? Do not waste time – your best years are just a call or click away! Reach out today at (727) 249-7200 or email us at BKGmediation@gmail.com to schedule your consultation.