Gray Divorce Divorcing at 50 Years Plus is on the Rise .pdf
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Gray Divorce - Divorcing at 50 Years Plus is on the Rise
By Diana L. Mercer, Esq
Mediator and Founder of Peace-Talks.com
Diana is the founder of Peace Talks, Collaborative Divorce Attorney and the co-author of
Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life
(Penguin 2010) and Your Divorce Advisor: A Lawyer and A Psychologist Guide You
Through the Legal and Emotional Landscape of Divorce (Simon & Schuster, 2001). After
12 years of practicing as a top divorce litigator (1988-2000), she now devotes her practice
solely to mediation. She has conducted over 4000 mediations, and has received over 450
hours of specialized, professional Family Law Mediation training.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) conducted a survey among its members
which revealed that 61 percent have seen an increase in the number of divorces among people over 50
in the United States. This phenomenon has been brought to our attention by the consistent discussion
of “gray divorce” in popular culture media. If we consider the celebrity news in the past 5 years, there
are several “gray” couples who have called it quits: Arnold Schwarzenegger & Maria Shriver (25 years),
Al & Tipper Gore (40 year marriage), Danny DeVito & Rhea Perlman (30 year marriage), Morgan
Freeman and Myrna Colley-Lee (24 years of marriage), and Mel Gibson & Robyn Moore (30 year
marriage). And I am sure that you can think of several more.
As the president of the AAML Alton Abramowitz said, "Baby boomers have regularly been catalysts for
social change, and getting divorced in their later years appears to be one of the most recent trends."
This social upheaval ushers in many unique financial as well as psychological considerations for
mediation or family law collaboration at Peace Talks. There may be many assets built up over time such
as businesses, retirement funds, pensions, and vacation/rental properties which create complex
property division and taxation considerations. Additionally, the physical and mental health of the spouse
may present usual challenges.
For example, a threshold issue is the mental capacity of the “graying” spouse to proceed with a divorce.
California law declares that a diagnosis indicating that mental illness, i.e., dementia, is not enough to
negate the party’s ability to divorce. The law requires specific evidence to make a finding of incapacity.
Thus, thorough investigations of the spouse’s medical, physical and psychological health may be
Furthermore, it is possible for someone to be adept at taking care of their physical needs, yet be totally
dysfunctional with financial matters. Examining these five signs could be good indications of mental
capacity: How well is the individual following his medication regimen. Does the car he is driving having
dents, and dings especially on the bumpers? Have the bills been paid regularly? Does he fall often?
And finally, what is his Neuro-psychological status. These observations provide direct evidence to
determine capacity to proceed with mediation or collaboration.
Another wrinkle in the mediation process with other parties may be the
ability to hear, to see, and process information. It is not that the
intelligence has diminished, it is rather the ability to access that
information rapidly, or difficulty drawing inferences when faced with
new ideas. Away Peace Talks can address any of these concerns is to
caucus privately with “challenged” party to explain the subtleties of their
choices and confirm that the material is being understood. The mediator
will also write down all crucial information to insure it was heard
correctly and can be remembered.
Thus, separating in our later years presents unique challenges which Peace Talks are prepared to
confront. And knowing the issues presented by “Gray Divorce” allows us to help facilitate better
mediation and collaborative outcomes.1
FNT 1: Some of the material used in this article was presented at the "Gray Divorce" seminar sponsored
by the Los Angeles Collaborative Family Law Association on September 6, 2014.
PeaceTalks.com is a full service mediation law firm that specializes in helping people in Southern
California settle their divorce in a sane and sensible manner. Our Divorce Mediator focus on divorce
mediation, custody mediation, family law mediation, premarital mediation, collaborative divorce
mediation and estate planning mediation.
If you would like to contact us to make Divorce Mediation or a mediation orientation appointment, or
simply to ask a question, please give us a call at (310) 301-2100.
Peace Talks Mediation Service for Family Law
8055 W. Manchester Ave.
# 201 Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
Phone (310) 301-2100