The term Silver Divorce has been tossed around for years but not much is said about Silver Separation. There are many sources for the label. Some say it’s for the color of the participants’ hair, reaching their Silver Anniversary (25 years) or the large amount of “silver” (read assets) involved in the dissolution of the marriage. But there may be an alternative to divorce for older couples. Experienced Howell Divorce Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler explores some good reasons that a Silver Couple might choose Legal Separation over Divorce.
Silver Separation may have advantages
During a Legal Separation proceeding, the couple negotiates division of assets including real estate, pensions, income, investments and possessions – just like in a divorce. The courts determine alimony, child support and child custody. The only difference is that the couple is still legally married after the split. The spouses are free to move on to separate lives but obviously cannot marry someone else without going back to the courts for a divorce. The legal fees and timeframe are about the same for divorce and Legal Separation.
There are four aspects to Silver Couples that may make them better candidates for Legal Separation than their younger counterparts:
- Less likelihood of remarriage – Older couples may want out of an unsatisfactory relationship but may not necessarily be looking to remarry. They may not have the interest in future childbearing that younger spouses may be considering.
- High Assets – For couples that have worked and saved their whole lives, the assets build up. Sometimes couples with a high degree of financial stability are less likely to fight tooth-and-nail for an exact split. They may just be interested in a “fair” division that gets them what they need to live on comfortably. They may be interested in getting the dissolution process over quickly and with minimal animosity and loss.
- Familiarity – Mature couples sometimes fall out of love but not into hate. They may have more of a chance at an amicable split than a younger couple. Just because a couple finds they cannot continue living and making daily decisions together, doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t support each other during a health crisis or family tragedy. They still may value the bond with a long-time spouse but not the everyday struggles. There are plenty of stories of divorced spouses who are not happy in a marriage, but after splitting, find themselves regaining the lost friendship that attracted them in the first place. Some even remarry the same person. It’s common enough to earn the label “Boomerang Marriage.” If there’s even a chance the couple may someday want to get back together, legal separation may be the way to go.
- Grown Children –Older couples naturally have older children. There is less chance of a contentious custody battle. Quite often, it is grown children who observe their parents’ mutual marriage misery and encourage or support the split.
Possible advantages of Silver Separation over Divorce
1 – Insurance
One of the big reasons for staying legally married is the ability to continue sharing health and life insurance. With ObamaCare, each spouse must obtain his or her own health insurance after divorce. At advanced ages, people may have a harder time finding affordable health insurance. In some cases, Silver Separation allows couples to continue the health care benefits of the spouse’s plan.
2 – Preserving value when dividing assets
When retirement accounts are divided there is a certain amount of loss. There is the expense for designing a QRDO. Sometimes, financial management companies charge higher rates for lower-value accounts costing each spouse additional fees. If an even division of assets cannot be achieved during divorce with the existing liquid assets and “like” property, sometimes possessions or real estate needs to be sold to even out the split. The assessment fees, commissions, costly renovations and depreciation all dig into the asset’s value. Sometimes separations, especially in the case of high-asset property divisions, may allow more leeway in designing a fair division of assets. What may seem lopsided in a contentious divorce, maybe be amenable to a separating couple looking to get out of an uncomfortable marriage with as little loss as possible. This is especially true if one or both parties is a successful professional or owns their own business(es). For couples that have established elaborate estate plans, leaving them intact with Legal Separation saves time, effort and lawyers’ fees.
3 – Religion
Sometimes older couples may be more attached to the conventions of traditional religious practice that forbid divorce. By remaining legally married, the couple is staying true to their promises to God and each other to stay married “until death do part us.”
4 – Compromise
Mutually negotiating a separation may be psychologically and emotionally easier to bear than the finality of divorce. Legal Separation may be especially suitable to spouses who are conflict-averse. Once a Legal Separation has been negotiated, it can be turned into a divorce decree relatively easily unless there are major changes. The Separation paperwork can also be easily rescinded if the couple reunites.
Howell Legal Separation Attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler has been a family law attorney for more than 20 years and has counseled many couples in their choice between divorce and Legal Separation. Contact our Milford, Michigan office for a free consultation at 248-685-8888 to find out if a Silver Separation might be right for your situation.
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates helps clients throughout Southeastern Michigan including five Metro-Detroit counties: Oakland, Washtenaw, Wayne, Genesee and Livingston. The Milford, Michigan law firm handles cases in Milford, Hartland, Highland, Commerce, White Lake, Waterford, Wixom, South Lyon, Howell, New Hudson, Canton, Holly, Grand Blanc, Linden, Clarkston and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long
Communications Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates