Divorce rate for older couples continues to rise

Couples over the age of 50 are ending their long-term marriages at a record pace.

"Gray divorce" epidemic sheds light on issues that can befall long-term marriages

When a couple marries, they pledge to be together until "death do they part." With a national divorce rate hovering around 50 percent, we know that isn't always the case. What may be surprising, though, is the fact that there has been a cultural shift in the demographic with the highest rate of divorce. No longer are young couples with no children and few assets divorcing most often; that dubious distinction now belongs to couples over the age of 50. In fact, a recent study released by Bowling Green State University indicates that the rate of divorce among couples in long-term marriages has more than doubled in the past 50 years (while the divorce rate for younger couples has remained relatively steady in that same time).

Understanding why

It is difficult for some people to understand why a couple that has been together for 20, 30, 40 years or more may choose to divorce.

Many just cannot work through their differences anymore, and have found that they are arguing more and more frequently. For some marriages, if spouses grow apart over the years, they may lose the determination to put in the work it takes to keep a marriage going. For others, the impetus needed to split from a long-term partner comes after the children have left home; there's no longer a need to stay together "for the children" if they have already moved out.

Surprisingly, one spouse's retirement might be the proverbial last straw for some couples. The thought of the couple being at home all day together with nothing to talk about could be enough for one party to want a divorce. This is particularly true in situations where the couple have no similar interests or if one spouse has undergone personal growth through new experiences, education or interests while the other has not.

The impact

Regardless of why older couples are choosing to divorce more often than younger ones, the fact remains that it is harder for a couple to split once they have been together for a number of years. More established couples have not only more personal and social entanglements that will need to be sorted out, they also have a much higher rate of joint asset ownership and debts than younger couples do. In addition, there are often other considerations, like spending time with children or grandchildren, particularly around holidays and school breaks and the possible payment of alimony to one spouse who had remained at home running the household while the other worked that can lead to conflict.

Any divorce attorney will tell you that it is typically much more difficult to handle a divorce for an older couple. The property division alone often leads to disagreements that can make a "gray divorce" contentious, expensive and lengthy. Don't risk jeopardizing your legal rights in a divorce: contact a family law attorney to learn more about various methods of resolution that will address all the contingencies, including property settlement, debt allocation, custody/visitation, small business ownership, home ownership, division of retirement or stock accounts and more.

Keywords: divorce, dissolution, long-term marriage, "gray divorce"