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Danielle De Angelis, Attorney at Law

Most people have heard the statistic that 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce. While overall that may still be true, there is more to the story. Studies of divorce trends show that divorce rates have declined slightly among younger adults. That is not the case for those 50 and older. In 1990, adults 50+ accounted for just 8.7% of all divorces in the United States. By 2019, that rate had grown to 36 percent. Divorces among those 50+ are sometimes referred to as gray or silver divorces.

Why do seniors divorce?

Every situation is different. In many cases, after a couple has raised their children and become empty nesters, they discover they no longer have things in common. They may have known for years the marriage was “broken” but stayed together for the sake of the children. Retirement can also impact a marriage, especially when one person retires earlier than the other. For many people, their identity hinges heavily on their work; once that work identity is gone, many people struggle to reinvent themselves.

Can this marriage be saved?

Couples may commit to working together to redefine their marriage. They may visit with a professional marriage counselor or trusted clergy member in an attempt to make the marriage work. Other couples may choose to stay together and live parallel lives. There is not one right answer; the only people who can decide if divorce is the right answer are the married couple.

Some challenges around divorcing later in life

In general, the longer you have been married, the more intertwined your lives have become. This can include everything from real estate you own (and associated mortgages) and retirement accounts to years of family photos. If you have shared hobbies and friendships with other couples, it can be awkward.

For most people contemplating divorce, finances are a concern. If one party earns significantly less or is not working, post-separation support and alimony may be required. Even if the parties have equal income and assets, after they separate, each individual will have to maintain their own household, with all the associated expenses. This can often mean both parties see a downturn in their standard of living.  

Valuing and dividing up the marital assets can be very stressful. Bank accounts are simple enough, but retirement accounts can be tricky. It also may be necessary to have art or collectibles appraised. Sentimental keepsakes may be hard to let go of, and it may be hard for either party to keep the family home on their own (and often the home is too large for one person).

After spending a good portion of your life with another person, the thought of being alone can be frightening. This fear can paralyze some individuals, leaving them hesitant to leave an unhappy marriage. Professional counseling may help an individual understand the options and how to address this fear.

Next steps

If you have decided that divorce is your best option, it is time to speak with a family law attorney to understand your next steps. Contact Brinkley Walser Stoner today to schedule an appointment.