Although the number of total U.S. marriages that end in divorce is consistently around 50 percent, there has been a slight decrease in that trend overall in recent years. When one looks at the marriages of people over age 50, however, the statistics tell a different story. Since 1990, half of all marriages for those over age 50 end in divorce. For those over age 65, divorce rates have tripled.
Many lay observers find these numbers difficult to fathom, wondering how things could go wrong in a marriage so late in the couple’s life. People who were previously married, some more than once, and others whose first marriage came later in life are included in these overall totals. The majority of gray divorces are simply couples who, despite years together, came to the point where they decided it was better to go their separate ways, primarily because they were no longer happy together.
Although divorce is generally considered a private matter, when more divorces occur as retirement age looms, gray divorce may be a public concern. Once property division is finalized in the divorce, many elderly individuals find themselves with an income below the poverty level with no realistic hope of future income. Studies show that this is more likely to be true for women than men.
A divorce can trigger deep emotional reactions for former spouses, and the parties may fail to grasp the significance of the financial decisions they are making. A divorce lawyer may be able to clarify the issues and explain the rights and responsibilities of all parties as they move forward with the rest of their lives.