Gray Divorce: Breaking Up is Hard to Do for Seniors
Since 1990, the divorce rate for Americans over the age of 50 has doubled, and more than doubled for those over the age of 65. “At a time when divorce rates for other age groups has stabilized or dropped, fully one out of every four people experiencing divorce in the United States is 50 or older, and nearly one in 10 is 65 or older,” according to a report by Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, sociologists at Bowling Green State University. Back in 1990, fewer than 1 in 10 persons who got divorced was over the age of 50.
“He slurps his soup.”
“She nags me about not putting the dishes in the sink.”
“He doesn’t understand me…”
I get that. I thought after 20 years, the “soup slurping” and “dirty dishes on the table” just get to be part of the daily married-life ballet. You have history, kids, family, illness, and frankly have lived through all of drama that life throws your way.
The Tipper And Al Gore Syndrome
It’s hard to dig behind the headlines. The story of Tipper and Al Gore is a classic example of “Gray Divorce.” After having four kids and 40 years of marriage, they simply had grown apart and wanted to go-it-alone. Tipper asserts that it was not that he was dull and boring or cheating on her. Are people expecting more of a sense of happiness and fulfillment today, than they were before? I guess so. And, it seems that couples are just not willing to put up with an “Irish Divorce” anymore; you know, “the not-divorce marriage, abandoned, deserted, dumped, loveless marriage.”
You may have grown up seeing your parents or your friend’s parents going through the motions of marriage, and not engaged in a loving partnership. Have you ever been out at a restaurant and seen couples eating and not interacting at all? Many of us just thought that was the way advanced married couples acted; that was the way it was supposed to be.
Why Is This Happening?
There are several factors that are converging. First, the stigma of divorce is disappearing. Even Pope Francis and the Catholic Church are re-examining their posture toward the Church’s stance on divorce. People are also living longer and the prospects of remaining in an empty relationship don’t bode well for many people. They are allowed to act on changing their future.
Other reasons for Gray Divorce center on finances. For instance, Brown, in her study cited above, states that, “…one reason for this [gray divorce] is the increasing economic independence of women. Many no longer have to choose between a bad marriage and poverty.”
The advent of easy online dating has given older people another hope for a better relationship. The prospect of living with someone you no longer love and respect appears to not be a sacrifice worth taking for many. Online dating is accepted and is the norm for all age groups. Seniors are also meeting via activities and travel.
So, you have decided to call it quits in your twilight years? What do you need to know about the money side of your relationship and life on your own?
- Alimony is almost always granted after long-term marriages. When you divorce in your younger years, usually “rehabilitative” alimony is granted, which will supply support while the spouse gets back on their feet. If it had been a long-term marriage, in most cases, alimony is given for life. If it is a second marriage that is short-lived, alimony may fall in between the above circumstances.
- Retirement money is usually cut in half. It doesn’t matter if this is a no-fault or at-fault divorce. Pension plans may be used to offset alimony, but make sure that you both are being advised on the tax implications.
- “The Family Home” will become an asset that has to be valued and split. Make sure that,if you opt to keep the house, you don’t become “house-poor.” The house needs to be maintained, and taxes and utilities paid, which may greatly eat into any monetary settlements.
- Remarriages Are More Likely To End In Divorce, so think about a pre-nup for your next marriage. In the document, you can deal with a lot of these monetary issues before emotions are running at a fevered pitch. You may need to consider adult children (on both sides), other assets, and lots of other issues. Seek professional advice from your lawyers, accountants and financial advisors. Your wills need to be adjusted to reflect your new circumstances, as well.
Gray divorce may not be a tragedy. You may be empowered to design and obtain a more fulfilling life than you may now have. How wonderful not to feel that your present marriage is a life-sentence.
I also caution you. Maybe it’s better to work on your present relationship and not assume that your spouse will be inflexible. The grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, but sometimes, it’s not.