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Gray divorce another step in the pursuit of happiness

It used to be that marriage was seen as a more or less unshakeable legal agreement, whereby a man and a woman decided to remain together unconditionally for the rest of their lives. Emphasis on "used to be." Times have changed. Marriages between men and women, women and women, or men and men are all legal possibilities in New York, and most people, including older individuals, no longer see marriage agreements as unconditional.

And rightly so. Real problems such as addiction, infidelity and abuse are valid grounds for spouses to file for divorce. But, as the phenomenon called "gray divorce" illustrates, couples can also just drift apart over the course of a marriage that no longer makes their lives better. In other words, the conditions of the marriage aren't conducive to individual happiness.

Interestingly, in 2009, one fourth of U.S. divorces involved spouses aged 50 or older. That figure represents a massive increase. Nineteen years earlier, only 8 percent of marital breakups were between spouses in that same age group.

While people of all ages have to confront issues of property division in a divorce settlement, these older divorcing spouses tend to face especially tough challenges. By the time people reach age 50, they may have accumulated significant assets, maybe in a business, a retirement account or real estate.

This kind of situation requires careful financial planning. In New York, matters such as alimony and business assets have to be addressed in a fair and equitable manner, and legal know-how is required for individuals to retain their current lifestyle and continue their post-divorce pursuit of happiness.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "More couples splitting up after 25-year itch," Amy Saunders, April 23, 2013

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