Nearly everyone can recall a grandparent or older relative explaining how “things were different in my day.” In what seems to be a never-ending cycle, each generation observes the modern world while wistfully, and sometimes inaccurately, remembering the way things used to be. As socially acceptable behavior evolves over time, however, the older generations may find themselves caught up in the middle of unexpected trends. A good example can be found in the rising divorce rate of older Americans, many of whom never thought that divorce was something that could ever happen to them.
Older divorce, sometimes called “gray divorce,” is on the rise in the United States, according to a study conducted by researchers at Bowling Green State University. In fact, the rate of divorce for Americans over 50 has doubled in the last quarter century, and there are currently more older Americans who are divorced than who are widowed. As people in this country continue to live longer, sociologists expect these numbers to keep rising.
Gray Divorce Study
Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin, professors of sociology at Bowling Green, analyzed data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to establish demographic trends related to divorce. Their findings indicated that attitudes toward divorce among older individuals seem to be changing drastically, as nearly three in ten divorcees are 50 years old or older, compared to one in ten just 25 years ago. They also discovered that more than 15 percent of all 50 or older adults have been divorced while less than 14 percent have been widowed.
Reasons behind the Increase
The researchers offered several explanations for the trend, including the erosion of the social stigma previously associated with divorce and the increasing financial independence of women. In addition, they observed that many older Americans are already in their second or third marriages, which statistically carry a much higher rate of divorce. The team also pointed to longer life expectancies which “decrease the likelihood that marriage will end through death and increase the length of exposure to the risk of divorce.”
Issues Associated with Gray Divorce
Divorce at any age can be a difficult process with many complex considerations. For older couples, many of whom have been married for 20 years or more, dissolving the marriage can create a host of unique challenges. Health concerns, including serious conditions requiring long-term care, are generally more common among older people, which can place a financial strain on the marriage and subsequent divorce proceedings.
Divorcing couples who have spent many years together are often faced with other difficult decisions, as well. Investment accounts, pensions, and retirement plans must all be valued and distributed appropriately according to the law. Additionally, life insurance policies, wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents may need to be addressed as the partners move into their post-divorce lives.
Finding the Necessary Help
If you are over age 50 and are considering divorce, you need qualified representation from a lawyer who understands your situation. Contact an experienced Illinois family law attorney today. We offer a free initial consultation to allow you the opportunity to understand your options and get the help you need in a difficult situation.