Last year a television sitcom featured an older divorced couple. The mother moved in with the bachelor son and the father moved in with the daughter and her family. The high jinx the parents had with their children made for amusing television. But it was also a poignant message about older adults adjusting to their new unmarried reality. The sitcom barely made it one season, but the challenges those divorced parents faced probably resonated with a great many older television viewers.

Approximately 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. With Americans living longer, the divorce rate in those over age 50 is almost 12 percent (up from 2.8 percent five decades ago). This trend in older age divorces is called Gray Divorces.

Divorce at any age is painful. Younger couples (in their 20s to 40s) are assumed to be the most likely to call a marriage quits. Generally, a couple with no children can move into new lives fairly easily. But when the divorce involves children, it can be devastating for everyone involved.

Gray Divorces would seem to be easier. Couples in their fifties or older likely have a nest egg that could be easily divided, grown children would be more understanding, and the couple would have the maturity and wisdom to deal with their separation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way.

Gray divorces can be extremely difficult legally, financially, and emotionally.

Consider the following:

  • Social Security benefits, insurance, savings, and pensions can be impacted.
  • As a couple ages, their earning years shorten. They may have to settle for a lifestyle that is far below what they would wish for at this point in their lives.
  • Spousal support may be a necessity.
  • If one spouse has always deferred to the other to maintain the household budget, it may be a challenge to maintain a separate household budget.
  • If a couple decides to live independently of each other, that means maintaining two households.

There are other factors to “going it alone” after decades of marriage:

  • Your spouse who said that he/she would be with you “in sickness and in health,” may not be there for you during the sickness portion of your life.
  • For older individuals, “getting out there” to meet someone new is a bit more challenging than for the 30-year-old divorcee who starts the search using an Internet dating site.
  • Your adult children may not be as “adult” as you had hoped and may not be accepting of the new family dynamic. That aforementioned television sitcom showed the frustration the children felt when their beloved parents clearly had no plan to reunite.

Should an older couple divorce or try to stick it out? After all, they’ve put up with each other this long, why not stay together for the time they have left? Of course, no one can answer that question for the couple. However, it is clear that there is a stronger trend among older couples to separate than ever before.

The Quintal law offices can assist couples of any age in working through a divorce. Along with our professional partners, we can help a couple address not only the legalities of a divorce, but also concerns around financial issues. Sorry, we cannot assist with the “getting out there again” aspect!  Please don’t hesitate to call us.