Statistics show that US adults above the age of 50 are divorcing at twice the rate that they were in 1990. And the rate at which those above the age of 65 are divorcing has tripled during the same time frame. Interestingly, more of those initiating divorce late in life are women rather than men!
Although every divorce has its unique background and story, studies show some common trends. For women in particular, making the decision to leave a long-term marriage is often about independence, opportunity and the ability to make their own decisions. These women are seeking to find out who they really are, what they really want, and with whom they want to be spending their time.
Significant societal and medical developments in the last 25 years have contributed to the increase in the “gray” divorce rate. No-fault divorce has made the process of getting divorced simpler, medical and other advances have enabled most people to live longer and healthier lives, and public opinion no longer stigmatizes divorce as was the case in the past.
So how do “gray” divorces of couples in long-term marriages differ from those of younger couples? In general, the issues are the same, but perhaps with different nuances.
- There is still a “marital pot” which must be equitably divided between the parties. But with no children for whom maintaining stability is a priority, selling the family home becomes much easier. In fact, one or both of the parties may be able to pursue a long-held dream of living in a different kind of community or a different part of the country.
- Cash flow needs must be considered to ensure that both parties’ monthly needs will be met (including planning for health developments), but the funds to support those needs are more likely to come from retirement assets rather than from salaries.
- In many cases, reaching agreement to enable both parties to maintain positive relationships with adult children will be simpler than working out custody arrangements for dependent minor children.
What steps should you be thinking about if your long-term marriage has become increasingly unsatisfying to you? Perhaps most importantly, think through the extent and the ramifications of your dissatisfaction. Working with a neutral therapist can be helpful in trying to make the best decision. Of equal importance is scheduling a consultation with an experienced divorce attorney (particularly with expertise in the intricacies of dividing retirement assets in divorce) before you take any concrete steps to effectuate a separation and begin the divorce process. And finally, think carefully about what kind of divorce you want to have, and choose a process and an attorney to help you achieve those goals.
To answer the initial question posed by this blog, no, it is never too late to get divorced, and to pursue the independence and self-determination you desire.