Middle Aged and Elderly Divorce Rates Rising

John Clayton Zinda

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In the words of Agatha Christie, “I have enjoyed greatly the second blooming…suddenly you find- at the age of 50, say- that a whole new life has opened before you." The news that has been making headlines lately concerns the divorce rates of middle aged and elderly individuals. In the words of the New York Times, “People are living longer, and many couples in their 50s and 60s- faced with the prospect of a decade or more in unhappy marriages- are reluctant to stay the course." Just consider these statistics:

  • In the past 20 years, the divorce rate among baby boomers has surged more than 50%
  • About a third of adults ages 46 through 64 were divorced, separated or had never been married in 2010 compared with 13% in 1970
  • A quarter of all divorces are by couples wed twenty years or more
  • A 2004 AARP study found that 66% of divorce filings were made by wives, according to The Berkeley Daily Planet, “Midlife women are sometimes in a better financial situation than their mothers and grandmothers were. In previous generations they might have stayed in marriage because of possible financial, religious or social repercussions."

According to Psychsocgerontology.oxfordjournals.org, “Baby boomers were the first cohort to divorce and remarry in large numbers during young adulthood. Now, they are aging into their fifties and sixties, and this portends that a growing number of older adults will experience divorce because remarriages are more likely than first marriages to end through divorce (Sweeney, 2010). Indeed, the proportions ever divorced, currently divorced, and married at least twice are highest among individuals aged 50 and older."

Ehow.com gave an extensive list of reasons concerning why older couples get divorces. These reasons included: empty nest, midlife crisis, illness and Medicaid eligibility. Empty nest is a significant factor, because couples who get married young and start a family right away often do not realize how much they as a couple have grown apart until the children grow up, leave the house and they no longer have a common, unifying goal (rearing the children).

Women cite emotional abuse and infidelity as a leading factor for divorce. Men, on the other hand, often cite incompatibility and loss of love. In the words of one woman, “The husband or wife becomes romantically involved with a younger person who they think brings a certain excitement they don’t have in their current marriage."

When it comes to illness, a couple will often divorce after one spouse becomes ill or if they lose a child. These experiences are often so devastating that the couple cannot recover. While stress is one factor, the financial strain of paying medical bills is another. When a couple divorces, an ill spouse can be covered by Medicaid whereas the financially stable spouse can move on with his/her life.

Another factor that can cause an older couple to pursue a divorce is each other’s financial habits- from overspending on credit cards to negative habits such as gambling or wasting money on strip clubs. Surprisingly, many older couples want a divorce because one spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol or because one partner has a mental disorder.

According to one source, because individuals are living longer, they are more intently evaluating their lives. She elaborates, “They are looking at questions like: ‘Did I accomplish my goals? Do I have a bucket list?’ And then asking themselves: ‘How does my spouse fit with my hopes and dreams? Is he or she willing to support what I want to do?’"

Regardless of your age, if you need counsel and guidance while pursuing a divorce, you should secure the aid of a competent divorce attorney on your side immediately.

Additional Resources

Zinda & Davis, PLLC is an Austin-based family law firm that can answer your questions about asset division, alimony, child custody, child support, domestic violence, and how to prepare financially for a divorce. The firm is BBB accredited and was named in 2011 as a Texas Super Lawyers® Rising Star℠.

Zinda & Davis, PLLC

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Divorce is the process of formally ending a marriage. Divorces may be jointly agreed upon, resolved by negotiation, or decided in court.

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