Gray Divorce: How Women in Transition Can Survive and Thrive Financially


In many ways, Al and Tipper Gore put so-called “gray divorce” in the headlines with the 2010 announcement of the ending of their 40-year marriage. But divorces later in life — sometimes referred to as “silver splits” — have been on the rise, doubling since the 1990s. The split between Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos is just one of the latest in a trend that is seeing the rate of marriage dissolution increase among those who have been married for 20 years or longer, even though the overall rate of divorce in America is decreasing.

Divorces that occur when couples are in their 40s, 50s, or even later in life can be financially devastating, and especially so for women in marriages where the husband has earned most of the money and made most of the financial decisions. So many times, I’ve sat across the table from women who, in addition to grieving the ending of a marriage that has defined their lives for several decades, also feel scared and helpless. One of the first things I have to do is to reassure them that they are not facing this challenge alone and that they have resources, both financial and legal. Once I can get these women to understand that they really do have some choices in their control and that they also have a certain amount of resources available to support this new phase of life, they tend to calm down and make better decisions.

Step 1: Understand How Your Assets Are Allocated

Because incomes of women older than age 50 tend to suffer sharply following divorce, some of the first things we have to look at include matters like the spouse’s deferred compensation packages, stock options, ownership stakes, bonuses, pension plans, and other such factors. In alimony states, all these should be taken into account when compensation levels are calculated — not just the base salary.

By contrast, in community property states, it is crucial to establish and document premarital assets that are not subject to division. Inheritances should be carefully considered with regard to whether they have been commingled; this can play a part in determining how much, if any of the inheritance is separate property.

Step 2: Consider Your Tax Situation

Since January 1, 2019, we also have to take into consideration new tax implications for clients living in alimony states. The new tax law changes a rule that had been in place for decades, which stipulated that alimony payments were tax-deductible for the payor and non-taxable income for the payee.

But with the new tax law, that is reversed, eliminating the tax deduction for the payor and transforming alimony into taxable income for the recipient. In certain situations, it could make sense to structure spousal support in some way other than alimony payments, such as an alimony “buy-out” or other methods of property division. Of course, every alternative has both advantages and disadvantages, making it even more important to have sound, professional financial, tax, and legal advice.

If you or someone you care about is facing a divorce later in life, you probably have a lot of questions. As a qualified, professional financial advisor specializing in serving women in transition, I can help you connect with the resources you need to find answers.

Stay Diversified, Stay YOUR Course!
Empyrion Wealth Management (“Empyrion”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Information pertaining to Empyrion’s advisory operations, services and fees is set forth in Empyrion’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure, copies of which are available upon request at no cost or at The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Empyrion. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Empyrion, and Empyrion does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Empyrion of the third party or any of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner or investment advisor.

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