"Grey Divorces" in Canada: Some Practical Aspects

Angry Senior Couple in a Terrible Argument

You may have heard the term “grey divorce”, referring to a divorce between couples, usually from the Baby Boomer generation, who have been married a significant number of years – sometimes 30, 40, or even 50 years or more.    Divorce rates amongst older, long-married couples form a significant portion of divorces in the country:  According to Statistics Canada almost 42% of divorces in 2008 were for marriages that lasted between 10 and 24 years, and 16.4% were for marriages of 25 years or more.   These statistics can be read in conjunction with the 2011 Statistics Canada report that of 1,000 Ontario marriages, 421 were projected to end before the thirtieth wedding anniversary.    Back in 2011 an article in the Huffington Post reported on how grey divorce was already on the rise, and speculating on some of the sociological reasons for the trend; a more recent article even counseled adult children on how to move on from their parents’ grey divorce.

In Ontario and elsewhere, getting a divorce tends to cost money.  When those legal fees are being borne by people who are in their senior years and retired, the emotional and financial cost can feel far heavier than for those in their earlier stages of life.  On the flip-side, some seniors will be more established and may have larger assets, which will require division under the usual Family Law legislation.

From a legal and technical standpoint, the process is no different for couples who decide to separate after a long marriage, as opposed to a shorter one.  However, there are numerous practical considerations at play.  For example:

  • Longer marriages tend to be more traditional, with one spouse (usually the husband) being the primary income-earner and often having control over the finances.  This gives rise to considerations relating to full and frank disclosure of family assets during the Net Family Property equalization process.
  • When long-term marriages end, both spouses are usually compromised in terms of their post-divorce living standard; however, if one spouse (usually the wife) has left the workforce either permanently or intermittently throughout the lengthy marriage to raise children, there are important legal ramifications relating to the amount and duration of spousal support to which she is entitled.
  • The dissolution of a long-term marriage may involve consideration of a broader and more diverse range of assets, the division of which involves a disruption to the status quo affecting not only the divorcing couple, but also extended family members or business partners as well.   This may include pensions, estate planning, the designation of beneficiaries under Wills and insurance policies, and corporate share structure (e.g. for any family businesses), and the use and ownership of recreational properties.

Do you have questions about your own “grey divorce”?  Contact us for a free consultation.





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