Legal Articles

When an Older Couple Divorces, Does Massachusetts Law Consider the Length of the Marriage?

Rise of the Gray Divorce 

While short-lived marriages are the stuff of tabloid articles and morbid curiosity, the public tends to think of twenty-year or thirty-year marriages as unshakeable. With advances in medicine and an overall increase in lifespans from our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, there has come about a new social phenomenon: the “gray” or “silver” divorce. Other names for the phenomenon are “silver splitter” and “diamond divorce.” In this case, “gray” refers to the color of the ex-spouses’ hair. With people living longer than ever before and an overall change in society’s views on the permanence of marriage, it has become more common for couples in their fifties, or even their sixties, to seek an end to their marriage.

Particular Financial Issues 

Couples divorcing after many years of marriage have unique needs and circumstances. With child-bearing years well behind them, it is unlikely for custody disputes to be part of a gray divorce unless the couple has been acting as a guardian to minor grandchildren. On the other hand, with retirement fast approaching and the possibility of more substantial assets gathered over decades of combined salaries, investments, and inheritance, older couples need legal representation that can address complex asset division.

Financial issues unique to older divorcing couples include, but are not limited to:

  • Income from social security based on only one party’s paycheck
  • Income from pensions and other retirement accounts
  • Supporting adult children or paying for their college education
  • Life insurance policies

These relatively unusual sources of income can make alimony calculations complicated. Additionally, longstanding marriages receive special consideration when it comes to scheduling alimony.

Alimony: Credit for Time Invested 

Massachusetts law does recognize the work and investment that goes into a decades-long marriage through its alimony schedule.

  • For a marriage of 5 years or less, alimony may be paid up to half (50%) of the number of months of the marriage.
  • For marriages lasting from 5 to 10 years, alimony may be paid up to 60% of the months a marriage lasted.
  • For marriages lasting from 10 to 15 years, the general alimony term may be up to 70% of the duration of the marriage measured in months.
  • For marriages lasting from 15 to 20 years, alimony may be paid up to 80% of the months a marriage lasted.
  • For marriages lasting 20 years or more, alimony may be paid indefinitely.

With this acknowledgement of the effort that goes into a decades-long marriage, Massachusetts law makes it possible for one former spouse to be required to support the other for the rest of the alimony recipient’s natural life.

Older Couples Need Skilled Legal Representation For Divorce 

If you are ending a decades-long marriage, you need an attorney who is attuned to the particulars of asset valuation and division, the specifics of calculating alimony when income derives in part or whole from social-safety-net programs, and the individual needs of a divorcing client.

If you are in a long-term marriage and considering divorce, please call our office today to discuss your particular situation and learn your options.



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