It is common knowledge that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, with higher rates in subsequent marriages. Most of these ending marriages are relatively new, usually occurring before the 10th anniversary. However, divorce is also rising among those 55 and older and is known as “gray divorce.”
Reasons why seniors may divorce
Once you know the reasons behind divorce among older couples, it will be less surprising why the divorce rate has increased in your age group.
- Loss of connection. The more time you are together, the more opportunity to either grow closer or further apart. Unfortunately, growing apart may be your reality, and you feel you no longer have common views, values and lifestyles. People change over the years, and there are more years to change with today’s higher life expectancy.
- More acceptance toward divorce. Due to social expectations you may have grown up with, you may have stuck it out longer than desired because divorce was less acceptable, even in situations of abuse or infidelity, and yo u wanted to avoid judgment. Now that divorce is more common and less frowned upon, you may feel more comfortable going through with it.
- Financial freedom. Another reason you may have stayed longer than you would have liked is that you were financially dependent upon your spouse and would not have been able to support yourself on your own. You may now have the education, work experience or job skills needed to take care of your own finances, especially now that your children are adults.
- Illness. Health problems are more common in older couples, and the resulting financial, physical and emotional burdens can take a toll on the marriage. This may even be more so when the spouse who is ill refuses to make life changes that would boost recovery.
- Other life stressors. Sickness is not the only stressor that can contribute to divorce. Events such as deaths of loved ones, infidelity, financial hardship, job loss and family conflict can have just as much of a negative effect on a long-lasting marriage as it does on a younger one.
- Second marriage. Perhaps this is your second marriage due to a divorce or death of your first spouse. Second marriages have higher divorce rates than first.
These are only a few causes, as they are as varied as couples.
Tips for a gray divorce
Some things to consider as you divorce at this age are retirement benefits, alimony and financial support for any disabled children or college students. You may also want to get a prenuptial agreement if you remarry. Have an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process.