Most people think of divorce as a process for young people: a couple get married in their 20’s spend a few years together, discover the marriage is no longer viable and divorce. While this scenario does describe many marriages, it ignores a growing segment of divorcing spouses: people over 50.
Older people are divorcing in greater numbers now than in the past, according to a recent article by NPR. These divorces, called “Gray Divorces,” are the result of many important factors and changes in our society, not least of which is the increasing independence of women. Women are now less worried about leaving a marriage and reentering the single life, especially since many women are economically independent. This makes divorce a much less frightening option.
The empty nest effect is also a factor in gray divorces. After the children leave, older couples are left with a great deal of time in each other’s’ company. In some cases, spouses in this situation find that they no longer have the same things in common and no longer enjoy the same activities they did when they were younger. This can be a powerful impetus for divorce.
Whatever the reason, the statistics don’t lie. In 1990, less than 10 percent of divorcing spouses belonged to the 50-plus demographic. Today, that number lies at 25 percent.
Gray divorces have a number of important features that distinguish them from other divorces. For one thing, older couples have likely accumulated a greater amount of assets than younger couples; this means their legal proceedings often qualify as high-asset divorces. High-asset divorces are slightly more complicated than regular divorces, as assets such as retirement funds, multiple pieces of real estate and stock portfolios need to be equitably split. Alimony may also be a factor in high-asset divorces, as spouses may be entitled to ongoing financial compensation after the marriage has ended.
Source: National Public Radio, “Older Americans’ Breakups Are Causing A ‘Graying’ Divorce Trend” Ina Jaffe, Feb. 24, 2014