There’s a lot of media coverage lately of the gray divorce phenomenon, fueled by a recent study by researchers from Bowling Green University, as well as a spate of highly publicized divorces by aging celebrities.
According to the study, published in the Journal of Gerontology, the divorce rate for couples over 50 doubled between 1990 and 2010,.
The researchers cite several possible reasons for this: 1) baby boomer cohort participated in the first significant increase in divorces by Americans while they were young adults, and are more accepting of divorce as a consequence 2) the higher rate of second marriages (which are more likely to end in divorce) among an aging population 3) the lack of child-rearing obligations to hold families together when parents become “empty-nesters” and 4) the increased financial independence of women; and the increasing longevity of American lives.
While the authors of the report conclude that, “Life-long marriages are increasingly more difficult to sustain in an era of individualism and lengthening life-expectations,” they confess that, “little is known about the predictors and consequences” of this trend, and call for more research to determine why the divorce rate among older Americans has skyrocketed.
Divorce can be particularly tough for older adults and their families, especially if they have been married for a long time. It can be more difficult to move forward when you are forced to leave behind many years of interdependence and shared living arrangements. For many spouses, leaving a long-term marriage can be like abandoning their own identity.
The financial aspects of divorce can also be crippling for older couples. It’s devastating if you were counting on a comfortable retirement to find your retirement savings have been cut in half. Moreover, those retirement funds no longer have many years to mature, will likely not recover whatever losses the divorce imposes on them, and may be subject to taxation if not handled correctly before the split.
If you’re undergoing a ‘gray divorce’, it’s important that you find a good attorney and take a careful inventory of all your assets, including retirement assets and social security payments, and make sure the division of these is carefully addressed in your divorce agreement. You may introduce a clause into the agreement stating that that any assets discovered after the divorce shall be split, or consider hiring a forensic accountant to track down any hidden assets.
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The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.