Silver Separation/Grey Divorce

“Silver separation” and “grey divorce” are colloquial expressions for when Baby Boomers, born in the late 1940s to mid-1960s, decide to separate after many decades of marriage. The Gen-Xers and Millennials may see the end of their parents’ marriage or that of older members of their community as a drastic remedy.

Trial Separation to Try Reconciliation?

The client finding him- or herself suddenly on an unexpected journey when the other spouse decides the marriage is over may not welcome this turn of events. Is there a possibility of reconciliation? Could marriage counselling be of value? Is a trial separation worth exploring? The loss of companionship and identity are important issues. An experienced counsellor will be able to offer comfort and healing strategies. It is critical not to jump feet first before understanding what’s happening.

For these clients, taking an accounting of their net worth, from which to develop a realistic financial plan, is another first step to consider. An immediate review of their entitlement to financial support from their spouse or partner, and a calculation of the equal or unequal sharing of the value of marital or jointly held property, may offer reassuring financial security.

Choosing Transition with a Plan

A different picture emerges from clients who express the need for economic and personal independence, a belief in a better life ahead as a single person anticipating a long life yet to live, or the simple yearning to strike a new path.

These clients may have spent decades living frugally to contribute to a pension and retirement savings. Realizing that they no longer have much in common with their spouse or partner, they choose now to separate and enjoy the fruits of their investments alone, or they may even think about remarrying. For the years that they gamely believe to be the prime of their life, they seek liberation from their previous lives.

Clients who decide to end a marriage of 20+ years may need to discuss how to share the equity in their property while maintaining an affectionate role in their grandchildren’s lives. For others the challenge may be transitioning into a retirement lifestyle after decades of managing a full household. These clients often choose the collaborative approach to express their wishes and needs face to face and to help the other spouse make the transition with dignity and with full understanding of their financial circumstances.

Business Syncing with Separation

For those with small businesses the matter foremost in the client’s mind may be complex continuity planning, winding down or selling a company, or the divestiture of certain assets to new owners. Critical to all of these decisions is the need to understand the legal issues and to plan early and wisely.

Guiding the Sandwich Generation

Clients in their 50s and 60s may find themselves in the dual role of caring for their aging parents while seeing their adult children prepare to leave the nest. Holding a power of attorney to manage their parents’ finances or make healthcare decisions for them may be new experiences for which a guiding hand from outside the family may be needed.

An Agreement to Start Anew

Entering into a new relationship armed with the lessons learned from the previous ones, many clients seek to secure continued sole ownership of what they bring into that subsequent union. They seek the advice of their family law lawyer to prepare a domestic contract such as a prenuptial agreement or cohabitation agreement to declare up front that, if this union does not meet their expectations, they will take out their investments for their own future use. Not having a contract in place risks division of those assets as part of the marital division of property regime or potential sharing between common-law partners.

Whether you are finding it’s time to plan a new life direction, are assuming a new role as a member of the “sandwich generation” caring for their parents and children, or are considering a trial separation, a family law lawyer can offer many options for a smoother transition.