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Emerging Financially Healthy from Florida Grey Divorce: A Mediation Roadmap

Emerging Financially Healthy from Florida Grey Divorce: A Mediation Roadmap


Divorce is a life-changing event that never comes easy. Separating from a partner with whom you shared the most intimate moments and who you promised to spend the rest of your lives with is a traumatic experience. That is especially true after long-term marriages in which mutual bonds have left deep roots. Couples divorcing later in life face different challenges than those who end their marriage early in the relationship.

A divorce between couples in long-term marriages is known as a grey divorce. The assumption is that as people age, their hair becomes grey (usually in their 50s). The term also refers to all divorcing couples born in the 1960s (baby boomers), regardless of the marriage length.

This article will offer a glimpse into the world of grey divorces in Florida, underscoring the financial implications of late-life divorce and emphasizing the power of mediation in bringing positive outcomes for older couples.  

A Look at The Numbers: Florida Grey Divorce Statistics

Unlike three decades ago, the divorce rate in Florida is declining (from 6.3 divorces per one thousand inhabitants in the 1990s to 3.6 divorces per one thousand inhabitants in 2020). Despite encouraging trends, Florida is still at the top of the list in the United States (a federal average is 2.3 divorces per one thousand couples). 

According to the Florida Department of Health, around 66,000 couples divorced in 2019. In sum, approximately 45 percent of all Florida couples terminate their marriage in divorce.

The divorce frequency among couples over fifty increased more than doubled in the last 30 years. Partially, that is due to Florida’s older population, but the divorce trend is still high, with more than 60 percent of second marriages ending in divorce. Most of those cases fall under the grey divorce category because people in their fifties often get into a second or third marriage (which has even smaller chances of lasting a lifetime).

Unpacking The Grey Divorce: The Root Causes 

Before diving deeper into the financial aspects of grey divorces, let’s briefly go through some of the most common root causes leading to a late-life divorce:

  • Empty family home. The so-called empty-nest syndrome means you and your spouse have nothing in common after your children move from home for college or work. When children were around, you were busy taking care of their school and extra-curricular activities. Once they leave home, you suddenly realize nothing between you and your spouse can keep you together. You have started to live separate lives during many years of dealing with children. Each has developed its interests while forgetting to nurture your relationship. When kids are no longer here to keep you busy, the marriage becomes an empty shell and crumbles.
  • Health-related issues. As we grow old, our bodies transform, and we experience changes in how we go through everyday life. It’s not just about our hair getting grey – we undergo different health issues, and our life enthusiasm declines. Because this process does not affect both partners equally, the spouse in better shape often finds it difficult to cope with their partner’s constant complaints, pessimism, and depressive mood. Although some spouses carry such a burden throughout the marriage, helping their partner with various health issues, others give up and see divorce as the only way out.  
  • Different life expectations. Living with the same person for decades can feel tiring for some spouses. Our personalities change constantly. After decades of marriage, we are not like we used to be 40 years ago. Spouses develop different worldviews and lifestyles through years of living under the same roof. That is especially true when children are around. While taking care of kids and ignoring their relationship, each spouse starts to envision a better future for themselves. Their partner is not part of the equation. At one point, one (or both spouses) decides it’s time to get the most out of their remaining years away from the unhappy, unfulfilling marriage. Some find other partners after divorce, while others try to find meaning in other pursuits, they lack time for during the marriage.

Understanding the Financial Implications of Late-Life Divorce

Terminating the marriage after many years has significant financial implications. The spouses face some crucial decisions that will determine their future financial stability. Some vital financial aspects of grey divorces include family home division, dealing with savings and retirement plans, negotiating alimony, adjusting to a new lifestyle, and potentially returning to work after early retirement.

  • Family Home Division. In an equitable distribution state, the courts divide marital assets equally unless circumstances justify unequal division. The family home is considered marital property, and the vital question is who gets the house you lived in for so long. Your home is a place full of memories. Sometimes that is something you want to keep forever, while in other cases the family home reminds you of an unhappy marriage, and you wish to get rid of it. When young children are involved, the court typically grants the house to the spouse who gets custody. But there are no kids around in grey divorces, and the question of who gets the family home is more complicated. A home is typically not a liquid asset – it requires constant maintenance and repairs. Extra costs are not something you should look for in times of crisis. And the period after the grey divorce is a challenging period when you need to adjust your spending and get used to living on a single budget. That is why selling the family home and splitting the proceeds is the best option. 
  • Savings and Retirement Plans. Dividing savings and retirement accounts is one of the most complicated issues during a late-life divorce. Splitting these assets in a divorce comes with different tax implications, so when settling these issues, pay close attention to the details.
  • Dividing 401(k)s. Splitting 401(k)s is burdensome because you need a special court decree (different from a divorce decree) to divide these assets before retirement. To avoid negative tax implications, settle things in one of the following ways. First, you can agree that one spouse keeps the 401(k) in exchange for different assets of similar value. That is the least complicated but requires exhausting tax calculations. Next, you can divide the 401(k) or liquidate it to pay one partner (that involves complex tax issues and potential penalties). Finally, spouses can agree to roll the 401(k) into an IRA. This option is available to spouses over 59½ of age without employment.
  • IRAs Division. Individual Retirement Account (IRA) enables tax-friendly investments. Potential tax benefits include tax-deductible contributions and other advantages. Opening the IRA during the marriage means it is considered marital property in Florida. Inherited accounts or accounts opened before the matrimony are separate property unless commingled with marital funds. The best way to divide IRAs is a trustee-to-trustee transfer, meaning you move funds from one spouse’s account to another spouse’s IRA. This method helps to avoid taxes and early distribution penalties (for couples under 59½).
  • Alimony. Divorcing later in life means one of the spouses will probably face drastic lifestyle changes. After years of marriage, one of the partners (usually the wife) retired from work to take care of the household and children. Due to such a vital contribution, the other spouse can work and pursue a career. When the marriage terminates, the spouse who stayed home caring for the children is in an unfavorable financial situation. That is where alimony (maintenance, spousal support) comes in. The spouse earning a salary during the marriage must contribute financially to their ex-partner until they stand firmly. Grey divorce decree (especially mediation agreement) must include adequate spousal support, helping the lower-income spouse maintain an appropriate lifestyle. Mediation negotiations focus on getting the best outcome for a spouse who kept the household flourishing during a long marriage. 
  • New Lifestyle. Being married for several decades makes life as a single more difficult. That is why divorcing couples must invest additional efforts to adjust to a new lifestyle without their spouses. Spouses feel emotional and psychological differences living alone, but the financial change is the most palpable. After living luxurious lifestyles for so long, some spouses find it difficult to adjust to less expensive cars, smaller apartments, less or no travel, etc. Emerging financially stable from grey divorce requires self-reflection and discipline. Although some spouses are high-earners and can fill the financial gaps quickly, initial self-restriction is necessary to avoid negative financial implications. 
  • Back to Workforce/Considering New Career. Spouses in long-term marriages are often affluent couples who establish family businesses and live luxury lifestyles. That is why one of the spouses usually retires early to explore their hobbies or enjoy time with grandchildren. Divorce after the fifties changes these perspectives dramatically. Faced with a deteriorating financial situation, retired spouses must return to the active workforce, renew their licenses, or consider pursuing new, more profitable careers. That is not an easy task after years out of the work market. So, when considering divorce later in life, think about potential withdrawal from retirement and the need to start a new career to support your lifestyle as a single.
The Road to Post-Divorce Financial Stability: A Grey Divorce Mediation

The Road to Post-Divorce Financial Stability: A Grey Divorce Mediation

Mediation is an out-of-court method that offers significant advantages compared to other dispute resolution procedures, especially when dealing with the financial aspects of grey divorces. Let us see how some of the mediation’s central features can help you emerge financially stable from a late-life divorce:

1. Mediation Helps Save Money

From a financial point of view, divorcing late in life is the worst moment to end your marriage. Spouses accumulate significant assets during the long-term marriage, making the property division procedure complex, expensive, and time-consuming. As mentioned, dividing a home, family business, savings and retirement plans, and other assets is associated with various difficulties. Unfortunately, marital property comprises not only net capital but liabilities too. Dealing with credit card debts, mortgages, and other liabilities poses a significant challenge, adding to overall costs. Litigate grey divorce means you will pay hefty attorney and court filing fees despite losing half of your assets due to marital distribution rules. Average litigation expenses are between $75,000 and $150,000, while the collaborative divorce is slightly less expensive (up to $50,000). Compared to litigation and collaborative law, grey divorce mediation costs between $7,000 and $10,000. Considerably lower costs and other benefits of mediation should be a sufficient incentive to entrust your divorce to a neutral intermediary. 

2. Mediating Grey Divorces is Confidential

Divorcing in your fifties is expensive and can harm your reputation too. Couples who build family businesses and a reputation in their communities are more likely to suffer from the public court process than those who recently married. Litigating grey divorces means all sensitive details (personal and financial) you share during the process (discovery, witness testimony) will become part of the public record. Everyone has secrets, and nobody wants to share them with people sitting in the courtroom or scrolling through the court docket online. Couples divorcing later in life find litigation’s publicity especially disturbing. To avoid the negative consequences of court publicity, older couples should engage in mediation. The process is highly confidential. Nobody (including the mediator) can disclose information shared during mediation sessions. The mediation’s confidentiality extends to potential litigation (should negotiation efforts fail), meaning no party can use such information as evidence during discovery or witness hearings.

3. The Mediation Process is Flexible and Informal

Unlike litigation, with its rigid procedural rules, mediation is flexible. The mediation process allows online scheduling as well as virtual sessions. Instead of attending countless court hearings in person, older couples can participate in online mediation sessions from the comfort of their homes. In contrast to the court process, where parties have little or no control over the scheduling or the outcome, couples involved in grey divorce decide when and where sessions will occur. In addition, they actively participate in negotiations and can change the mediator at any time. As opposed to litigation, mediation puts divorcing couples behind the steering wheel, giving them control over the negotiation results. Instead of passively waiting for the binding decision from the judge and jury, parties decide their destiny through meaningful conversations. That is vital when deciding on family home division, retirement, savings accounts, debt distribution, etc.

4. Mediation is Time-Effective

Time is of particular importance when you are divorcing later in life. Couples who decide to divorce in their fifties have little time to spare. They want to get the most out of their lives – alone or with a different partner. Engaging in years-long litigation does not contribute to that goal (average divorce ligation lasts between 2 and 3 years). Collaborative law is not better (you must wait up to 1.5 years to finalize the divorce). In contrast to these time-consuming procedures, mediation takes several months (up to five months) or weeks.

5. Mediating Late-Life Divorces Helps Spouses Stay Friends

As mentioned, older couples divorce for several reasons. The vital cause of grey divorces is empty-nest syndrome and alienation between spouses. That means that spouses rarely quarrel when divorcing later in life – they only want to get on with their lives separately. Unfortunately, litigation can generate conflicts even in conflict-free situations. As a vindictive, adversarial method, litigation puts divorcing parties in opposite roles, motivating them to fight using all available legal means. Mediation is different. By facilitating amicable communication, the mediator facilitates negotiations and helps parties find common ground. Mediation allows ex-spouses to maintain constructive relationships long after the divorce. Despite living separate lives (with other partners or alone), couples can continue treating each other respectfully. Mediation enables such an outcome.

Key Takeaways

  • A divorce between long-term couples in their fifties is known as a grey divorce. 
  • The divorce frequency among Florida couples over fifty increased more than double in the last 30 years.
  • The root causes of grey divorces in Florida include empty-nest syndrome, health-related issues, and different life expectations.
  • The critical financial aspects of late-life divorces involve decisions of family home division, alimony, retirement, savings plans, adjusting to a new lifestyle, and going back to work after years of retirement.
  • Grey divorce mediation is cost-friendly, time-effective, confidential, and flexible dispute resolution method. It allows long-term partners to remain friends for life.
The Mediation Group: Mediating Your Way to Financially Healthy Grey Divorce

The Mediation Group: Mediating Your Way to Financially Healthy Grey Divorce

The Mediation Group is a Florida-based mediation firm comprising top-notch family law experts with unmatched negotiation skills. 

Ending a long-term marriage is difficult, but our experts will keep your financial and emotional integrity intact all along the way. Contact our team to find the best ways to set you off on a post-divorce journey while ensuring financial stability.

Please call today at 954-474-8700 or email us at to schedule your consultation.