Divorce seems like a pretty black and white affair. You’re married, you decide you don’t want to be anymore, you dissolve the marriage and it’s over. So what is a gray divorce?

Gray divorce doesn’t refer to the state of the divorce itself, but rather the ages of the couple. A gray divorce is when couples 50 and older end their long-term marriage.

It has become more popular over the last 25-30 years. A study by Bowling Green State University sociologists determined that for adults over 35, the divorce rate has increased between 1990 and 2010. In fact, the risk of divorce more than doubled during that time period for those ages 55-64.

Gray divorces can look a little different than others. More assets are tied together and retirement funds are shared. While any children are more likely to be fully grown and caring for themselves, they can play a part in the divorce.

Alimony and gray divorce

One of the most significant ways a gray divorce can look different is in terms of alimony. While Michigan is a no-fault divorce state, the courts often award long-term alimony to divorcing parties in lengthy marriages.

If a divorcing party is not sufficiently able to support themselves after a marriage, the court will consider this as a factor for awarding long-term alimony. For couples who were supported off one spouse’s income, this could be particularly true as a spouse who has not worked for a significant number of years may struggle to find gainful employment after the divorce.

In Michigan, alimony is not immediately terminated upon remarriage and cohabitation. What does end alimony payments is if the paying spouse can prove a significant change in ability to pay or that the other spouse engaged in fraud or duress while negotiating the settlement.

If you are considering a gray divorce, talking to a professional who can help sort through the intricacies of dissolving a long-term marriage can be beneficial to you and your divorcing spouse. If you are unhappy in your marriage, you do not have to stick it out until the end, and trends suggest you are not alone in wanting out.