Since 1990 the rate of divorces for couples over the age of 50 has doubled. These types of divorces are often referred to as gray divorces. For many of those involved, divorce will actually result in happier golden years.

For many of these individuals, their divorce has been the culmination of decades of marriage, yielding many financial assets over time and making it much more difficult to deal with an equitable distribution. They can also seriously impact retirement products.

For widows and widowers, their net wealth is more than twice that of individuals from gray divorces. So, what exactly happens when couples get a divorce over age 50?

The Financial Impact

For those divorcing over age 50, the following matters in particular can be uniquely impacted:


Alimony is common for couples married for more than a decade and in situations where one spouse makes more money than the other. Some states may actually calculate the amount of alimony from potential earnings and not just current earnings.


A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) for an annuity division may necessitate the approval of a judge. The method of payment differs from situation to situation, with deference given to the initial annuity contract. That contract is responsible for determining how future payments are to be divided.

Court Settlements

Ex-spouses may be entitled to a portion of court settlements if they were involved in some manner. This could be something as simple as supporting their spouse.

They are not necessarily entitled to 50 percent of the settlement, but they may be entitled to some of it.


It is important to remember that for many documents such as life insurance policies, pensions, and 401k plans, beneficiaries have been chosen. Often times these beneficiaries have been indicated as the spouse, or in this case, the ex-spouse.

Keep in mind that many of these policies and such do not automatically remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary without your express action. Call your issuer or financial planner to ensure that a new beneficiary is assigned should you so desire.

Defined Benefit and Defined Contribution Plans (Pensions & 401 Plans)

Defined Contribution Plans include documents such as your 401k. By filing for a QDRO with the pension or 401k issuing company, a certain percentage of the 401k or pension may be divided between the actual beneficiary and their ex-spouse.

If the account was started during the marriage and all deposits into it were made using earnings during the marriage, the entire amount as of the date of dissolution may be considered to be community property.

When one spouse is still working, the non-working spouse is generally entitled to an award of spousal maintenance. The exact award for spousal maintenance differs based upon the specific circumstances of each case. It is also usually able to be modified unless otherwise explicitly stated.

If you or a loved one is going through divorce, it can be hard to objectively navigate your legal options while dealing with such an emotionally-charged time, particularly if you have been married for an especially long time.

Call us at 856-751-5505 or contact us online today. We represent clients across South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County.