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Make the most of your settlement in a gray divorce

There is an interesting and unusual trend taking place in the United States in recent decades. Overall, the nation's divorce rate stabilized and is slowing down. However, for one group, the rates continue to climb.

Over the past 30 years, the rate of divorce for couples age 50 and older has doubled. Perhaps even more surprising, with couples 66 and older, the rates are higher still. In fact, there's even a term describing the phenomenon — gray divorce.

What's driving up the divorce rates?

Before 1990, less than 10% of divorces involved spouses age 50 and older. For whatever reason, having stuck it out that long, couples used to be determined to remain in the marriage.

But those days have passed. Unhappy couples are deciding to uncouple and spend their respective remaining years apart.

Exhibit 1: The Gores

Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, "Tipper," are a high-profile couple who got a gray divorce after being married for 40 years.

There were no (at least public) allegations of infidelity or other juicy tidbits. The couple had just run out of steam as a married unit and decided to split up.

In the not-so-distant past, ill-suited couples accepted their fate and learned to adjust to teeth-gritting annoyances in their spouses. Wives picked up husbands' dirty boxers, husbands turned a deaf ear to wives' complaints about the Joneses.

Make rational decisions in a gray divorce

There's nothing wrong with pursuing your version of happiness in your golden years. But the choices you make now will affect your economic viability for the rest of your life, so it's vital to review all of your options and only agree to a fair and equitable property settlement.

Which assets should you pursue?

Seeking the house might make immediate sense to you to preserve the continuity of your life. But face it — your life will change regardless once you get divorced. Sometimes, making a clean break involves selling the house and splitting the profit.

You should also pay close attention to the division of the pension benefits in a gray divorce. Remember, you are at or very near the end of your earning capacity. Any assets you cede here may be unable to be recouped later.

Your Edina family law attorney can offer advice and guidance when determining the property to seek in your divorce settlement.

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