Jack and Susan B. had just celebrated their 32nd anniversary when they hit their children with a bombshell. They planned to divorce as soon as possible. No one really saw it coming. However, after much reflection, they joined the ranks of baby boomers heading for a gray divorce.
Divorce After a Certain Age
The term “gray divorce” typically refers to couples who divorce after age 50. According to Pew Research, the divorce rate for adults age 50+ has just about doubled in the past 25 years. Rates in other age groups have decreased, though. So, what is causing this “divorce revolution” among our older population?
Divorces are all different. Some of the reasons given for gray divorce include:
- The couple may have grown apart over the span of their marriage. Interests, attitudes, even beliefs change over time. For some couples, these changes present insurmountable obstacles to their continued happiness.
- Couples with children sometimes stay together until the children are out on their own. They may be unable to recover from empty nest syndrome and feels it’s best to separate.
- Longer life expectancy may mean more time spent together after retirement. Some couples cannot imagine living without their spouse. Others cannot imagine living with their spouse through retirement.
- People may have different beliefs about money, debt, and spending. At a certain point, especially looking toward the future, differences of opinion may grow too big to ignore.
While gray divorce is common, it is not without its perils.
Gray Divorcees Face Unique Problems
Most divorced couples experience the stress of reinventing their lives. Everything changes, from finances to living arrangements to relationships. However, people who divorce late in life have a few new wrinkles to deal with.
- Sometimes the husband has been the breadwinner while the wife cared for home and children. This puts the wife in an awkward position after a divorce. Many older women who lack job skills and experience struggle to enter the workforce. Some may be able to rely on spousal support for years if the marriage lasted more than 10 years.
- Often one spouse handled every aspect of the family’s finances. The spouse who was not involved in financial matters may face some unpleasant surprises during the course of the divorce. In addition, the non-financially-savvy spouse now has to take on their own financial planning.
- The fact that gray divorcees are closer to retirement may also cause a few hitches. Spouses who expected to rely on retirement accounts in their golden years may have to adjust their expectations. Even worse, there’s not much time to rebuild before retirement. Older people may have maxed out their salaries and reached the end of their career opportunities, which could make rebuilding those retirement accounts very difficult.
As with any divorce, it’s best to consult with an attorney to make sure you get the best result.
Learn More About Filing for Divorce
The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced at all phases of divorce proceedings. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website. We maintain offices in San Francisco, Marin County, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, San Jose, Gold River (Sacramento), and surrounding communities. We plan to add a Beverly Hills office soon.