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Analysis: "Gray Divorce" On the Rise

Senior couple, ignoring each other and upset. They look like they just had an argument and may be thinking about divorce.

Why are more and more older Americans splitting up?

While divorce rates are down nationwide, the rate of Americans getting divorced later in life has increased dramatically, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the Bowling Green State University National Center for Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR) found that, while divorce rates overall have dropped since 1990, the divorce rate among those aged 55-64 has more than doubled, and the age 65+ divorce rate has more than tripled.

While younger couples are still more likely to get divorced, the gap is much smaller than it was 30 years ago. This is a significant trend because the implications of divorce later in life are quite different from divorces among younger people.

What's driving the uptick in gray divorce?

In part, the rise in gray divorce may be driven by increasing life expectancies. Even well into middle age, people in unhappy marriages may be looking at several more decades with the same person, and thus more inclined to look for a way out.

According to AARP, one factor that may be leading to an increase in late-in-life divorces is specific to the current over-60 age cohort. Baby Boomers, who are currently aged 60 to 80, largely married early in life, and early marriages are strongly correlated with higher divorce rates, even if the divorce itself happens decades later.

Moreover, many of today's older adults are on their second or third marriage, and remarriages have a higher rate of divorce. In contrast, younger generations typically married later, which means they are more likely to enter middle age still in their first marriage.

In addition, the stigma around divorce has declined significantly over the last 30 years. That hasn't necessarily translated into higher divorce rates for the younger generations because those generations also felt less pressure to marry in the first place, but for the Boomer generation, changes in societal expectations aligned to produce a higher rate of gray divorce.

The unique challenges of divorce after age 50

When couples divorce later in life, they face a unique set of challenges compared to younger divorcees. First, the financial implications of divorce at a later age are markedly different. On the one hand, many older people are high earners, as they have progressed to leadership roles or senior positions in their careers.

On the other hand, the prospect of divorce can be especially financially difficult when you are nearing retirement, disabled, or already retired. Moreover, additional paperwork may be needed, such as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to split up retirement assets.

Divorce later in life also presents special challenges when one or both spouses are experiencing age-related decline. Sometimes, it's necessary to involve a legal guardian or conservator to protect an aging spouse's interests during the divorce process.

It should also be said that a divorce with children is difficult at any age. Even if your children are adults and no longer live at home, navigating their parents' divorce can have a profound emotional impact.

Our law firm can protect your rights and your future, at any age

Divorce is never easy, but the right legal counsel can make all the difference. The experienced divorce attorneys at Courtney Clark Law P.C. are proud to stand up for our clients in all of life's transitions, at any age. If you are considering divorce or need help with another family law matter, give us a call or contact us online today.

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