Some important considerations for divorcing older couples


A recent study by researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University made some fascinating discoveries concerning the divorce rate among both younger and older couples here in the United States.

Specifically, the researchers found that while the divorce rate among younger couples showed signs of leveling off from 1990 to 2010, the divorce rate among older couples -- defined as those age 50 and up -- actually doubled during this timeframe.

Why exactly are the number of so-called gray divorces rising?

According to the researchers, there are several possible reasons for this phenomenon. First, the seniors demographic is getting continually larger thanks to the huge number of aging baby boomers. Second, many women in this age group hold high-paying jobs and enjoy rewarding careers, such that they have financial independence and don't have to stay in a loveless marriage. Third, the societal stigma surrounding divorce that was so prevalent during their childhood has all but disappeared, leaving them more comfortable with the divorce process.

Yet another fascinating theory advanced is that an empty nest -- meaning the children have grown up and left the martial home -- doesn't actually invigorate the marriage, but rather serves to highlight longstanding relationship issues.

Regardless of the reasons why the divorce rate among older couples is skyrocketing, experts say it's extremely important for anyone in this position to understand that their needs will be vastly different now than if they had divorced 30 years earlier.

"We have to make sure the ex has health insurance, which may mean getting COBRA (temporary health insurance) through her ex's plan until she is eligible for Medicare," said James Pritikin, a fellow with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. "The spouse who doesn't have job skills may need (alimony). The most troubling part is the bulk of the marital estate is often tied up in home equity, but the home is worth less now or they're underwater with their mortgage."

Accordingly, any older Americans considering a divorce -- from those who are still working 40 hours a week to those who are living off a substantial retirement income -- should strong consider consulting with a dedicated legal professional if they are seeking a dissolution of marriage.

Source: The Ledger, "Divorce rate doubled over past 20 years: Factors include aging, loss of stigma and financial concerns," Leslie Mann, March 8, 2013

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