"Baby boomers" divorcing at record high rates

According to research performed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), the National Center for Marriage and Family Research (NCMFR) and the United States Census Bureau, divorce rates for the so-called "baby boomer" generation have skyrocketed in recent years. Since 1990, the percentage of people over the age of 50 getting divorced has nearly tripled. Twenty years ago, one out of every 10 divorcing people was age 50 or older, but now that age group makes up one out of every four divorcees.

Though experts have not been able to pinpoint a specific cause for the sharp increase in divorces for the over-50 demographic, there are several potential contributing factors, including:

  • Evolving gender equality that has allowed more women to work outside the home, thus giving them the financial freedom to divorce
  • Longer life spans
  • Inability to co-exist as a couple after one or both spouses retire
  • Lack of common interests aside from the children (who are now likely grown and out of the house)
  • Societal acceptance of divorce as a viable option/removal of the stigma once associated with divorce
  • Changing views of marriage itself (many people now view marriage as a major indicator of personal contentment, and are willing to leave if they don't feel their needs are being met)
  • Increased rates of subsequent marriages (which have a much higher divorce rate)

The complications

Though, at first glance, it may seem that divorces for couples over 50 shouldn't be much more complicated than divorces for younger couples, nothing could be farther from the truth. In addition to couples having more emotional entanglements when they have been together for 20, 30, 40 years or more, there are also practical and financial complications when more-established marriages end.

For example, a couple who has been married only a few years likely has relatively few joint assets, they may not own a home together, may not have many joint debts and might not have children. Their divorce, while still emotional and painful, should be relatively straightforward.

If that same couple decides to divorce after 20 or 25 years together, however, it will open up a new can of proverbial worms. They now likely have a marital home, joint banking accounts, life insurance policies, children (who may or may not still be living at home), vehicles, furnishings, collectibles, etc., that must all be accounted for in the divorce. Depending on the couple's age at the time of the split, there may be concerns that one or both of them will retire soon (or have already retired), are living on a fixed income, have medical conditions that drain their finances or will find it difficult to re-enter the work force after a long absence, something that could result in the need for temporary or permanent alimony payments.

No matter what age a couple is, the decision to end their marriage is one that must not be taken lightly. Regardless of age, social status and net worth, splitting up is difficult and stressful. By working with an experienced family law attorney familiar with the divorce process, you can ensure that your rights are protected and that your case is handled with care and precision while you focus on starting a new life for yourself.