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The added challenges in 'gay gray divorce'

Although "gray divorce" has become increasingly common, it can be complicated -- particularly for long-married couples who don't have a prenuptial agreement. They're likely to have years and perhaps decades of commingled assets and debts to divide up.

Obtaining adequate spousal support is also crucial for a spouse who has been out of the workforce for many years. It's not easy to get back into the workforce when you're in your 50s or older, and Social Security benefits may still be some years in the future.

For same-sex couples who divorce in the latter half of their lives, the issues confronted in "gay gray divorce" can be further complicated by a large gap between the length of their relationship and the length of their marriage. Same-sex marriage didn't become legal in Georgia and a number of other states until the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized these unions throughout the country. Therefore, many couples who had been together for many years weren't able to tie the knot until just two years ago.

Property division in equitable distribution states like Georgia, if decided by a court, is based in part on what the couple obtained after their marriage (marital assets) and what they brought into the marriage (separate assets). Longtime couples may have purchased a good deal of property together during their relationship that isn't considered marital property. That can leave couples to battle over what belongs to whom.

Further, spousal support is based in part on the length of the marriage. If a couple has been together for decades, but only married for two years, that can seriously impact the amount of support granted to a spouse seeking it.

As with many long-term marriages and relationships, one person may have given up a career to raise the children. They may have a comfortable lifestyle that the nonworking spouse will no longer to be able to maintain.

Many gay and straight couples make the wise choice to have a legal document in place similar to a prenup if they are living together but not married. This can help protect both partners if they break up. Long-term couples who decide to get married are equally wise to get a prenup to sort out these issues while they're still blissfully happy rather than wait until things have gone sour.

Source: quotes, "Traversing LGBTQ divorce in new era," Amanda Brisson Cannavo, June 21, 2017

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