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Grey Divorce: When Older Couples Divorce

Posted by attorney Andrew Ben Boyer

On behalf of Andrew Boyer PC posted in Property Division on Wednesday, October 24, 2012

According to a study published earlier this year by researchers at Bowling Green State University, the frequency of divorce for individuals older than 49 years doubled between 1990 and 2009, even while overall divorces fell. Divorce mediators say that divorces between older couples can be particularly complex, especially because longer marriages tend to result in more marital assets and money, complicating the propety division process. Still, the data shows that older couples are pursuing divorce far more frequently than ever; about 25 percent of 2009's divorces involved individuals who were 50 or older.

This phenomenon of increasingly common divorce between older couples, sometimes called "gray divorce," has yet to be thoroughly explained, but experts have offered a number of possible contributing factors. One Illinois therapist suggests that the lack of change and growth in the lives of many older couples causes distance to develop in their relationships. Other experts have proposed different ideas about the causes of gray divorce, such as increasing social acceptance of divorce and self-fulfillment.

One of the authors behind the Bowling Green study said that older couples' previous divorces could be a partial cause of the gray divorce trend, as a growing number of these couples have "complex marital biographies." Second or third marriages are about 2.5 times more likely to end in divorce compared to first marriages; as remarrying becomes more common among older people, so too does divorce.

According to a 2004 AARP study, many individuals who divorce between the ages of 40 and 79 do so in order to enjoy an increased degree of personal freedom, but also frequently experience fears about returning to single life or struggling financially. Proper prenuptial planning can help alleviate some of those fears about post-marital financial stability.

Source: Springfield Journal-Register, " Increase in older divorce rates puzzling," Steven Spearie, Oct. 10, 2012

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