Gray Divorce

Gray DivorceAccording to this New York Post article, the divorce rate for those over 50 has risen from about 10 percent in 1990 to 25 percent today.  The phenomenon is widespread enough that it even has a name:  “gray divorce.”  Experts theorize a number of reasons that this might be happening:

  • Longer, healthier life spans lead older people to believe there’s still time to start over
  • Older people are more likely to be on their second or third marriages, which are more prone to divorce
  • Higher expectations for marriage
  • Perception that it’s easier to get divorced than it was in the past
  • Less sense of shame about divorce makes couples less inclined to “stick it out” after the children have left the home.

Whatever the reasons for the trend, there are unique considerations that attorneys and their “gray divorce” clients should take into account.  Unlike many younger couples, for whom custody and child-rearing issues are often paramount, for older divorcees the most important issue is often assets, and the strategic division of those assets is very important for their retirement years.  It is important to divide pensions, insurance policies, and real estate, while hopefully ensuring that each spouse will have money to live on in the “twilight years.”

For couples with fewer assets, divorce can cause financial strain that may mean one or both spouses become partially dependent on their children or the government.  Couples over 50 are more likely to have estate planning already in place as well.  If so, it may be necessary to revisit wills, life insurance, trusts, bequests, and other end-of-life documents to ensure that assets and decision-making power will still be distributed according to each ex-spouse’s wishes after divorce.

Link

How to Help Your Attorney Help You in Family Law

This is a really insightful article from About the Children with really smart advice about how to work with your lawyer to make things go as smoothly as possible in your case.  The keys to a good, productive attorney-client relationship are respect and honesty.  Making sure your attorney has all of the information he or she needs, even if it could be damaging to your case, is very important.

Separated Spouses and Sex, Part 1

            This is the first post to the Hickory Family Law Blog, so let’s jump right in with a common and controversial topic:  when is it okay to have sex after you separate from your spouse?  This issue comes up often as people transition from married life back to being single.  Dealing with the hurt and pain that usually accompanies divorce, in addition to the practical issues like finances and custody, makes this is a tumultuous time for many people.  North Carolina requires a one-year separation period before spouses can file for absolute divorce.  During this separation period, it is not unusual for one spouse to want to hold on to the marriage, while the other is ready to move on with life and begin dating again.  It is important to know that sex during the separation can cause many problems and can have a negative effect on your divorce.

Sex With the Ex

            Under the North Carolina statutes, isolated instances of sex with your separated spouse do not constitute a reconciliation that would cause the one-year separation period to start over again.  Resuming a regular sexual relationship (as opposed to isolated incidents), however, can be one factor a court would consider in deciding whether a couple has “resumed the marital relationship,” thus restarting the one-year period.  While you and your spouse may want and mutually decide to reconcile, be aware that resuming a sexual relationship with your separated spouse may have an effect on when the court finds that you were legally separated from your spouse for purposes of post-separation support, divorce, and equitable distribution if the reconciliation is not permanent.  With all of the other complicated emotional, financial, and legal issues involved in separation and divorce, having sex with your ex can make things significantly more complicated and confusing.  It is important to think about the consequences for yourself and your divorce proceedings before resuming a sexual relationship with your separated spouse.  If it has already happened, or you are considering reconciliation, talk with your lawyer about the effect your choices can have on your case.

Criminal Adultery

             Now that we have addressed having sex with the person from whom you’re separated, let’s talk about sex with other people.  Under North Carolina law, having sex after separation, with someone other than your spouse, constitutes the crime of adultery.  Believe it or not, North Carolina General Statutes § 14-184 makes adultery a Class 2 misdemeanor.  Enforcement of this statute is rare, but it is common for sex during separation to affect negotiations and lawsuits.  A relatively amicable divorce proceeding can turn nasty very quickly if one spouse finds out that the other has already begun a sexual relationship with another person.  This can cause resentment and bitterness that may encourage the “left behind” spouse to be more difficult in negotiation and legal tactics.  While this law is rarely enforced, committing adultery does mean that you risk having a criminal record, which could impact your job, your custody case, and the judge’s perception of you.  While you are separated, it is important to conduct yourself in a manner that will not reflect poorly on you in the eyes of a judge whose decisions have significant impact on your future.