It has long been “common knowledge” that about half of marriages end in divorce. This is a statistic we have all heard and have probably repeated. Thankfully for all of us, the statistic has never been true. It wasn’t true when the U.S. divorce rate was at its peak in 1979, and it is even less true today.
Statistical research shows that between 1979 and 2017, the U.S. divorce rate declined by 29 percent, and is now at its lowest point in about four decades. This is, in large part, due to changes in the marriage practices of younger Americans. People are waiting longer to enter first marriages, and that often means feeling more comfortable with oneself and more confident in the choice of a spouse.
Although the divorce rate has declined for nearly every age group, it has actually increased among older Americans. Data show that there has been a slight increase in divorce among people ages 45 to 54, and a major increase among people ages 55 to 64. The rate of “gray divorce,” as it is often called, has more than doubled.
There may be many reasons for this, including the fact that older generations tended to marry at younger ages. It could also be that people in this age range may be on their second marriage, and second marriages are statistically more likely to end in divorce.
Whatever the reasons may be, there are some important practical concerns that accompany gray divorce – particularly around property division. Dividing assets typically includes dividing retirement assets (pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, etc.) regardless of which spouse’s name is on the account. If you had planned to retire together, you may suddenly find you don’t have enough money to maintain the standard of living you were expecting. It costs more money to live as two single people than as a married couple. While this is true of couples getting divorced at any age, it is especially problematic for older couples because they don’t have the same amount of time left in the workforce to make up for the diminished retirement assets.
There may also be concerns about spousal support if one spouse has never worked outside the home or hasn’t done so for many years. Entering (or re-entering) the workforce later in life can be difficult, and it may not be possible to find a decent-paying job.
The good news is that all of these concerns can be addressed with the help of an experienced family law attorney. To understand all of your divorce options (at any age), please consult a lawyer in your area.