Gray Divorce: Couples parting ways after decades of marriage

Gray Divorce is when adults age 50 and older separate. (Photo: WHAM file)

Laura Bates married her high school sweetheart.

“We lived in the same neighborhood. We got married very young. I was just shy of 19 and he was just shy of 20 and he was in the service and it seemed like the thing to do so we could be together,” said Laura Bates who divorced after 41 years of marriage.

Laura and her husband have two daughters and five grandchildren. After 41 years of marriage, the couple decided to part ways.

“We grew apart. Maybe we always had separate interests in terms of what we do for recreation and fitness and the way we like to eat. But the kids were really the glue that kept us together,” Bates said.

It's not uncommon; known as Gray Divorce, when adults age 50 and older separate.

It’s a trend attorney Kevin Clark says he's seen at his practice.

“It's one of the biggest growing age segments in our practice,” said Clark, an associate with Wesley Clark and Bates LLC.

Clark says the divorce rate among the 50 and up age group has grown from 25% to 30% over the past two years.

Unlike younger couples, there's no battle over custody, but there are assets, 401ks and pensions to split.

“What has to happen in those situations is in the equitable distribution of all assets including the pension and the 401k, they have to look at how that's going to be split up after the divorce,” Clark said.

Clark uses a process known as collaborative law where couples work things out outside of a courtroom.

It was an easy process for Laura and her husband. They split everything down the middle.

“We sat down together and we said what's fair, what's right and let's figure this out and make this right,” said Bates.

While the split was a difficult decision to make, the two still own and run a business together.

The pair decided to make the process an amicable one not only for the family, but for them.

“There's no reason when you've been married to someone for 30, 40 years for you to have to walk out of the marriage hating each other. That's not right,” Bates said.

Bates said counseling and support from family also made the divorce a smooth transition.

Laura says they still try to have family dinners together, and celebrate holidays together for the kids and grandkids.

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