Not long ago, the idea of a couple in their 50s divorcing after decades of marriage would have seemed very out of the ordinary. There has been a relatively recent shift, however, and these so-called “gray divorces” are happening more frequently. Al and Tipper Gore are one of the most well known recent boomer divorces, but they are one of many American couples who have decided to part ways later in life.
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) polled its members and reported that over 60 percent had an increase in divorce cases involving those over 50 years of age. Information from the National Center for Family & Marriage Research showed similar findings, reporting that despite a recent declining national divorce rate the divorce rate among the baby boomer generation has almost doubled over the past 20 years.
Reasons for the shift
Analysts point to a number of reasons why gray divorces may be more common in recent years. These include longer life expectancy, the relative ease of getting a divorce now compared to decades ago, and the increased financial independence of women.
As people age their interests and goals may diverge. Individuals may feel they have much of their life left to live and there is no reason for them to stick it out in an unfulfilling relationship, particularly once the children have left the home.
“Baby boomers have regularly been catalysts for social change and getting divorced in their later years appears to be one of the most recent trends,” explained the president of the AAML.
Considerations when divorcing later in life
There are a number of issues particularly important to divorcing couples over the age of 50. These include the division of pensions and retirement accounts, Social Security benefits, ownership and division of business interests and alimony or spousal support. Older couples also often have more assets requiring a more complex division of property.
Since many of these individuals may be retired or only receiving retirement assets, income may be largely fixed. This makes the division of assets and property particularly important because there is less flexibility to make up any financial shortcomings with new streams of income.
Consult an attorney
If you are considering a divorce later in life it is important to meet with an experienced family law attorney. A lawyer can explain your options, advocate on your behalf and help ensure all your interests are protected.