As many older Americans in Orange County are finding out, marital bliss does not last for every couple. In fact, the divorce rate for those age 50 and older has doubled from 1990 through 2010. Divorce rates for younger people, on the other hand, have leveled off. Now divorce rates for people 50 and older are one in four, and the share is likely to increase given an aging population.
Some of these increases in older divorce rates come from the larger numbers of women who have careers that allow them to support themselves. If they do not need to depend on their husband's salary, they are less likely to continue in an ill-functioning marriage.
Children are another factor. When children leave home, many married couples have more quality time to spend with each other. For some couples in an "empty shell" marriage, however, the exodus of children means they no longer have a reason to stay in the relationship.
Society's attitudes about divorce have also changed. Many people have stopped following the no-divorce rule of their churches. The stigma about divorce has become increasingly obsolete, and no-fault divorce is available in most states.
However, those who divorce when older usually have different concerns than younger people. One spouse may have limited employability and need alimony. An older spouse who does not have health insurance will likely need to get health insurance through the former partner's plan until that person qualifies for Medicare.
Troubles are also likely to arise during the process of property division in an over-50 divorce. A longer marriage means more marital assets to divide up. Older couples are also more likely to own assets like real estate, and retirement accounts are likely to be a major financial consideration in the divorce. Frequently, the entire conjugal estate is fixed in home equity, but given the economic downturn of the last few years, a couple's house may be worth less now than a decade ago.
Clearly, a "gray divorce" will have unique considerations, legal as well as personal. Legal professionals familiar with such issues can address these concerns during the divorce process.
Source: Theledger.com, "Divorce Rate Doubled Over Past 20 Years: Factors Include Aging, Loss of Stigma and Financial Concerns," Leslie Mann, March 8, 2013