Published on:

Gray Divorce in North Carolina

Recently, Kiplinger’s reported on “gray divorce,” or divorce among couples that have been married for 30-plus years. It pointed out the emotional and financial drains of a divorce, even when couples are older and presumed to have more security. Couples may find divorce tough if they’ve been married for so long that their assets and future plans are tied together. Often both spouses wind up living on half of the income they anticipated but many of the same expenses when they have a late-in-life divorce.

North Carolina is an equitable distribution state in which the court divides a couple’s property in a way that is equitable or fair, but this does not necessarily mean property is divided evenly in half. The court starts by presuming a 50-50 division is fair, but either party can submit evidence to rebut this presumption.


The thirteen factors the court may consider when deciding whether to deviate from an even split are: each spouse’s income and debts, support obligations in earlier marriages, how long the marriage was and the ages of the spouses, parent’s needs with the custody of a child and use of marital home, whether pension and retirement benefits are expected and whether they will be separate property, each spouse’s contributions to acquiring the marital estate, contributions made by one spouse to the other’s career or education, contributions that increased the value of the separate property, whether the divisible property was liquid or non-liquid, the difficulty of assessing interest in assets or business, each party’s tax consequences, actions by either party that increased, wasted or devalued assets, and other factors the court believes are property and just.


You and your spouse can hire attorneys to negotiate and craft a settlement that you both believe is fair. Or you can let the court decide what property division and settlement would be equitable. There are a number of considerations that both spouses should keep in mind once they decide to separate.


Kiplinger’s pointed out that there are six things to consider at the end of a marriage. The first is that emotions shouldn’t compromise your financial decisions. Often people want to keep up appearances and may spend money on items they can’t afford even before a divorce is final. It makes more sense to be cautious about spending and determine what will be needed both in the present and in the future before shopping for the future.


Kiplinger’s also suggested that spouses straighten out their paperwork. Each spouse should obtain copies of tax returns for the past three years, credit card statements, bank statements, insurance documents, car registration paperwork, retirement account statements, and receipts that might affect taxes for the year of the divorce. If a settlement is negotiated, the lower earner should take pretax investments since the lower-earner’s future tax bill will be less, as long as they don’t need income from the IRS or other investment before age 59 1/2. There are alternatives, whereby a lower earner can take highly appreciated holdings. When retirement income pushes a person into a higher tax bracket in the future, he or she should speak to an accountant or other financial professional about converting certain accounts for purposes of a lowered tax burden.


Both spouses should try to maximize retirement income. Social Security payments aren’t community property but you’ll need to decide how to file after divorce. It’s important to speak to an advisor about rules for filing. It can also be important to talk about filing options for pension plans, catch-up contributions, and ownership of life insurance policies. Sometimes an ex-spouse that receives spousal support may need to own a life insurance policy on the ex spouse who earned a higher income in case that higher earning spouse passes away.


If you are concerned about the kinds of issues that come up in a grey divorce, you should contact the Woodruff Family Law Group at 336.272.9122 or via our online form.