While the length of a marriage is often used as an indicator of its strength, this is not always the case. In recent years the divorce rates for older couples have accelerated, while general divorce rates have been on the decline. Known as gray divorce, this process for older couples who wish to legally dissolve their marriages is often far more complex.

While older couples will not need to worry about decisions related to child custody and support, division of property and assets is often more complicated the longer a couple has been together. This guide explains some of the more common challenges of gray divorce.

Division of retirement benefits & life insurance proceeds

Most couples build their retirement savings up together. This can make for a contentious subject once divorce is on the table, as one spouse may claim a greater contribution than the other. Life insurance policies are equally contentious. If both spouses have paid into a policy and both believe they have an equal claim, it can be difficult to determine how it should be split.

Spousal support

When one spouse has been the primary breadwinner during the course of the marriage, the other spouse may lack essential job skills and experience, which makes it difficult to enter back into the job pool. In this case, the stay at home spouse will most likely request spousal support or alimony, which is intended to supplement their income. Alimony can be temporary, but the order can also remain in place until the receiving spouse remarries or is deceased.

Estate planning 

Estate planning documents must also be updated to show the separation. Along with updating will and trust documents, ex-spouses should also be removed as beneficiaries of financial accounts and life insurance policies. If a person is shown as a beneficiary on an account but is not listed in the will as such, the person will still be eligible for all or a portion of the proceeds. This is because beneficiary designations supersede other estate planning documents.