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The So-Called Gray Divorce Penalty and What to Do About It

While it is getting more and more common to get divorced after the age of 50, there is still some stigma and other adverse consequences with doing so, perhaps more so than in the case of Los Angeles couples who are younger.

In fact, the consequences are common enough, and significant enough, to be dubbed the gray divorce penalty. The gray divorce penalty affects men and women somewhat differently, at least based on the evidence available.

For women, the gray divorce penalty is financial. Like other states, California law aims to put spouses on equal footing after a divorce, but the reality is that women who divorce at age 50 or older are much more likely to have a hard time recovering from the inevitable economic blow a divorce causes.

On the other hand, men face serious relationship problems after a late-in-life divorce. Because they tend not to have as broad or as tight of social networks as do women after a divorce, loneliness becomes a real problem for them. Moreover, adult children are less likely to provide physical and emotional support to the man after a gray divorce.

Ultimately, like an older woman facing financial problems after divorce, he may have to turn to public assistance to have his needs met.

While there are a number of things that need to be done to tackle the problems associated with the gray divorce penalty, handling the process itself in the right way can ensure that this penalty's impact is not too severe.

For instance, women would need strong advocacy so that any divorce provides adequately for their ongoing financial needs, while men might benefit from a collaborative divorce or mediation in order to minimize the social fallout. Attorneys can be very helpful in both respects.