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How to Split a Toaster • Season 8 • Episode 14

Gray Divorce Dilemmas: Linda Hershman on Discernment Counseling and Untying the Knot in Your Golden Years

On this episode of How to Split a Toaster, hosts Seth Nelson and Pete Wright speak with licensed marriage and family therapist Linda Hershman. They discuss the rising trend of “gray divorce” among older couples, the practice of discernment counseling, and how divorce later in life impacts adult children.

Key Takeaways on Gray Divorce

  • Gray divorce rates have risen dramatically, from 10% of couples over 50 getting divorced in 1990 to 25% in 2020. The rate increases for second and third marriages.
  • Four cultural changes are contributing to the rise in gray divorce: women gaining more financial power and independence, increased life expectancy, no-fault divorce laws, and evolving cultural norms about marriage.
  • Unique concerns in gray divorce include caregiving as you age, less time to rebuild assets, and women worrying whether they’ll find new partners.

Discernment Counseling

Discernment counseling helps mixed agenda couples (one leaning in, one leaning out) decide whether to stay married or divorce. There are 3 paths offered in discernment counseling: stay the course and do nothing for now, move towards separation and divorce, or enter intensive marriage counseling where divorce is off the table. Discernment counseling is not regular marriage counseling – the goal is not to improve the marriage but rather to help the couple decide what to do next. It aims to create momentum to save the marriage for those who are unsure if they want to stay married.

Listener Question on Custody and Visitation Restrictions

Judges can and do restrict custody and visitation if there are demonstrated safety concerns and evidence the children are being negatively impacted, like DUIs with a child in the car. However, schedule disruptions or complications alone don’t usually qualify as emergencies warranting restrictions in the eyes of the court. The bar is high for judicial intervention limiting parental rights. The advice is to check your local laws and not assume your situation will automatically be seen as an emergency. Present concrete evidence of danger or harm if you want the court to intervene with custody and visitation restrictions.

Linda Hershman’s Book

Linda Hershman is the author of Gray Divorce: Everything You Need to Know About Later Life Breakups. Her book covers various topics related to gray divorce, including the trends, impacts on adult children, LGBT and mixed orientation divorce, and more.

Links & Notes

Seth Nelson is a Tampa based family lawyer known for devising creative solutions to difficult problems. In How to Split a Toaster, Nelson and co-host Pete Wright take on the challenge of divorce with a central objective — saving your most important relationships with your family, your former spouse, and yourself.
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