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Divorces in California and around the country involving couples over 50 years of age have doubled in just the last two decades, and what are known as gray divorces accounted for one in four filings in 2010. In 1990, just 10% of divorces involved an older couple. This trend has demographers worried because divorcing later in life can often have dire financial consequences. According to a recent study conducted by a pair of researchers from Bowling Green State University, spouses going through a gray divorce can expect to see their household wealth decline significantly afterwards.

Divorcing after decades of marriage can lead to emotional as well as financial problems. The researchers behind the study found that spouses who go through a gray divorce are more likely to fall into depression than those who lose their husbands or wives to an illness or accident. However, it is the economic fallout of a gray divorce that is causing the most concern.

The reason divorcing later in life can be so financially grim is that older people do not have time to rebuild their retirement nest eggs. They also often have college-age children placing an additional strain on their finances. Learning how to make ends meet on a single source of income is a challenge that most divorced people face, but the transition can be especially difficult for older couples.

Attorneys with family law experience may call upon financial experts and retirement planners when their clients could have difficulties dealing with the financial consequences of ending a marriage. These professionals could explain the tax consequences of accessing retirement savings and the rules dealing with Social Security benefits for former spouses. They may also provide insights that could prove useful during property division and alimony negotiations.