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Divorcing Later in Life

Steven C. Frazier, Attorney at Law June 11, 2024

Mature couple holding a broken heartDivorce is never easy, but divorcing later in life comes with unique challenges that younger couples might not face. As an attorney who has practiced law since 1980, and having gone through a divorce myself, I understand the difficulties associated with “gray divorce.”  

If you’re someone older and considering divorce, I’d like to run you through the challenges you can expect, how to resolve them, and the legal aspects of getting a gray divorce in Tennessee. By the end, I hope you'll feel more informed and ready to take the next step. 

The Challenges of Divorcing Later in Life 

Divorcing later in life typically involves couples who are over 50 and have been married for many years. This type of divorce can present several challenges: 

Financial Stability 

One of the most pressing concerns for older couples is financial stability. Over the years, you’ve likely accumulated significant assets, savings, and possibly, debts. Dividing these, while ensuring both parties maintain financial stability, can be complicated and stressful. 

Retirement Plans 

Retirement accounts are often among the most valuable assets in a marriage. Dividing these plans requires careful consideration and considerable legal knowledge. You should understand how your divorce will impact your retirement plans and how you can secure your financial future. 

Health Concerns 

Health issues often become more prominent as we age. During a divorce, you must address any health concerns and consider how they will be managed post-divorce. Health insurance coverage, long-term care plans, and the division of medical expenses are all important factors to discuss. 

Social and Emotional Impact 

Divorcing later in life can be emotionally challenging. Separating from your spouse after many years together can feel like losing a part of yourself. Support from friends, family, or a professional counselor to help you deal with the emotional fallout of a gray divorce. 

Estate Planning 

Divorcing later in life means you need to reevaluate your estate plans. Wills, trusts, and beneficiary designations often name a spouse as the primary beneficiary.  

Post-divorce, you will need to update these documents to reflect your new circumstances and ensure that your assets are distributed according to your current wishes. Failing to update your estate plans can lead to unintended consequences and disputes among heirs. 

Adult Children and Family Dynamics 

While you may not have to contend with child custody issues, divorcing later in life can have a significant impact on family dynamics. Adult children may have strong feelings about their parents’ divorce, which can create tension and complicate family interactions. It's important to communicate openly with your children and manage their expectations during this transitional period. 

Housing and Living Arrangements 

Deciding what to do with the family home can be a point of contention.  

Deciding whether to sell the home, have one party buy out the other, or choose another arrangement can greatly affect both parties' financial stability and emotional well-being.  

You will also need to consider the cost of maintaining the home, the emotional attachment to it, and the feasibility of finding new living arrangements that meet each party’s needs. 

Steps to Take When Considering Divorce Later in Life 

If you're contemplating a gray divorce, there are several steps you can take to prepare yourself: 

1. Assess Your Financial Situation 

Take stock of your financial situation. Gather documents related to your assets, debts, income, and expenses. Understanding your financial standing is critical for negotiating a fair settlement. 

2. Consider Your Living Arrangements 

Think about where you will live post-divorce. Will you stay in the family home, or  need to find a new place? Consider the costs associated with your living arrangements and how they will impact your budget. 

3. Review Your Retirement Plans 

Consult with a financial advisor to review your retirement plans. Understand how your divorce will affect your retirement accounts and what steps you need to take to ensure your financial security. 

4. Seek Professional Support 

Divorce is a complex legal process that requires the services of an experienced attorney who can guide you and protect your interests. 

5. Update Legal Documents 

Ensure that all your legal documents reflect your new circumstances. This includes updating your will, trusts, power of attorney, and healthcare directives. Failure to do so can cause confusion and unintended consequences down the line. 

6. Plan for Health Insurance 

Health insurance is a critical consideration, especially as you age. Determine how your divorce will affect your coverage and explore your options for maintaining health insurance. This may involve negotiating with your spouse for continued coverage or researching individual health plans. 

7. Communicate With Family and Friends 

Open and honest communication with your family and friends is vital during this time. Let them know what you are going through and seek their support. They can provide valuable advice and practical assistance. 

8. Focus on Self-Care 

Divorce can be physically and emotionally taxing. It's important to focus on self-care by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, seeking counseling, or engaging in activities that bring you joy. Taking care of yourself will help you deal with the challenges of this transition more effectively. 

9. Reinvent Your Social Life 

Your social life may change dramatically post-divorce. Take the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, join clubs or groups related to your interests, and explore new social circles. Reinventing your social life can help you build a supportive community and enhance your emotional well-being. 

10. Consider Mediation or Collaborative Divorce 

Instead of opting for an adversarial divorce process, consider mediation or collaborative divorce. These approaches can be less stressful, more amicable, and often quicker and less expensive. They encourage cooperation and communication, allowing both spouses to work towards mutually beneficial solutions. 

Divorce Laws in Tennessee  

As a Tennessee family law attorney, I can offer insights into the state's divorce laws that will be good to know as you navigate the legal process:

Grounds for Divorce 

In Tennessee, you can file for divorce on both fault and no-fault grounds. No-fault grounds include irreconcilable differences, while fault grounds can include adultery, desertion, and cruel treatment. I can help you determine the best approach for your situation. 

Division of Assets 

Tennessee follows the principle of equitable distribution. This means that marital property is divided fairly, though not necessarily equally. The court will consider various factors, such as the length of the marriage, the contribution of each spouse, and the economic circumstances of each party, when dividing assets. 


Alimony, or spousal support, may be awarded based on the needs of one spouse and the ability of the other to pay. Tennessee law allows for different types of alimony, including temporary, rehabilitative, and long-term alimony. The court will consider factors such as the length of the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, and the standard of living during the marriage when determining alimony. 

Retirement Benefits 

Dividing retirement benefits in a Tennessee divorce requires careful consideration. Pensions, 401(k) plans, and other retirement accounts are subject to division. You must understand the rules governing these accounts and how they will be divided to ensure your financial future is secure. 

Get in Touch With a Divorce Lawyer 

Going through a divorce later in life can be tough, but you don't have to go it alone. When you team up with me, you get decades of legal experience, a customized legal strategy, and a friendly ear. I will take the time to understand your situation and use my knowledge and skills to secure the best possible outcome for you. 

If you're considering a divorce later in life, reach out to Steven C. Frazier, Attorney at Law, for a consultation. Together, we can work towards a resolution that protects your interests and sets the stage for a brighter future. I work with clients who reside in Kingsport, Tennessee, and throughout Northeastern Tennessee.