Divorce professionals are witnessing a steady rise in the number of divorces involving couples over age 50 - so-called "grey divorces." Researchers are pointing to a number of reasons for this trend. Baby boomers in most grey divorces have more self-oriented expectations about marriage. Many are deciding to focus on personal goals and interests after they've finished raising their kids. With life expectancy increasing, many marriages are now ending in divorce as couples seek fulfillment in retirement as singles.
Whatever the causes, the statistics are clear. According to Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University, grey divorces have doubled in just 20 years, even while overall divorce rates have declined slightly. One in four divorced people were over age 50 in 2009, versus one in 10 in 1990. The grand total: over 600,000 people age 50 and older got divorced in 2009.
There are at least three additional trends worth noting. First, over half of these divorcing spouses have already been through at least one divorce. Second, according to a 2004 study by the American Association of Retired Persons, women are usually the ones asking for divorce. The female spouse requested two-thirds of divorces among people between the ages of 40 and 69. Third, cheating does not seem to be a major factor in most grey divorces.
Grey Divorce Challenges
Grey divorces pose unique challenges. If one spouse stayed at home while the other worked or has retired, the financial realities can be quite serious. While California calls for keeping the financially disadvantaged spouse at the same standard of living through the division of assets and spousal support, the ex-spouse receiving support is eventually expected to earn his or her own income. Finding employment can be very difficult in the current economy, especially for those over age 50.
Further, parties to an aging divorce are more likely to suffer from serious medical problems, depression and complicated family issues. After decades of marriage, divorce can come as a shock. These problems require careful attention, management and external support.
Get the Help You Need
Advance planning can help address these problems. Contact financial professionals to identify all assets, debts and income from the marriage. Make a plan to match the divorce outcome to your desired lifestyle. Don't be afraid to seek personal and emotional support from family and friends. Avoid an acrimonious divorce if possible through a settlement outside the courts, through mediation or collaborative divorce. Contact a divorce attorney for legal advice on how to obtain the best possible outcome from your divorce.