Today’s baby boomers range from 55 to 73 years old.
Studies show that “gray divorce”—marital splits among senior and nearly senior citizens— is increasingly common.
According to a Pew Research Center report, the divorce rate for people in the United States age 50 and older is now about double what it was in the 1990s. And, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rate for those 65 and older tripled from 1990 to 2015.
Experts say the trend makes sense and there are several reasons why divorce has become more popular at an older age.
Let’s begin with the fact that the stigma of divorce has lessened over time.
The almost universal introduction of no-fault divorce helped to reduce its shame because one party did not have to accuse the other of infidelity, mental cruelty or any of the other reasons deemed legitimate to file for divorce. For many, the status of divorce also became ethically acceptable.
Empty nesters, whose children have moved out and begun a life of their own, are sometimes confronted with the realization that they no longer have a lot in common with the person they married many years ago. They may have lost the spark, or they may have vastly different visions on how to live without the focus on their children or how to live later, in retirement.
Longevity plays a part. Living longer, baby boomers feel more entitled to living fully. They see another 30 or 40 years ahead of them and feel they deserve to enjoy a life that honors their needs and happiness.
Money management is at the core of many gray divorces. Couples who struggle with debt or are constantly fighting about finances end up divorcing.
In cases where one partner has been the breadwinner for years, that person may feel entitled to make all the financial decisions, alienating their spouse over time.
Substance abuse among baby boomers is one of the fastestgrowing health issues facing our country. Partners will try to help a spouse seek out effective help, but when they are ultimately unsuccessful, they seek divorce.
Infidelity is also on the rise. Websites abound for seniors to meet new people, and some sites specifically connect married people with those interested in a temporary sexual partner. Viagra and its competitors have provided the fuel for such interactions at any age.
Previous divorce is a key indicator for another divorce. The divorce rate for remarried adults ages 50 and older is double the rate of those of any age who’ve been married only once, according to Pew.
It appears from the numbers that divorce is a solution for many seniors, but it is not without its challenges.
Nationally, the average cost of a divorce is about $15,000 per person, including attorney’s fees, court fees and the cost of hiring outside experts such as a real estate appraiser or a tax advisor. The average time it takes to complete a divorce—from filing the petition to getting a settlement or the final court judgment—is about 11 months.
Splitting assets in a divorce can sometimes be daunting. After a long marriage or multiple marriages, determining alimony or the value of premarital assets or Social Security or splitting pension plans can be tremendously complex.
Most participants of gray divorce have adult children. Often the adult child is forced to take sides, making things very uncomfortable for all parties.
There are no quick, easy answers and no “one size fits all” when it comes to gray divorce. If you would like to learn more about the consideration points for later-life divorce, go to nextavenue.org/navigate-late-inlife divorce.