While the overall divorce rate in the United States has fallen, the divorce rate among Americans ages 50 and older has doubled since 1995. Although some of this can be attributed to financial factors, there are a number of other reasons for the rise in what are called “gray divorces.” These splits have far-reaching ramifications as each spouse nears retirement age.
The recent announcement of Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce has many Americans focused on the term “gray divorce” for the first time. This is a painful reality for millions who have lived through it. Gray divorces are a rising phenomenon, and they have their own unique effects on the spouses involved. Without kids, these divorces become mainly about finances, and the issues are no less challenging.
Kids are often what binds a couple together. Even if they have underlying issues with each other, raising children together can paper over them as the two parents seek to work together for the good of the kids. The parents may not want to disturb their children’s environment, as they want to give the kids a stable upbringing. For years, the parents will try to make it work, or they will at least acknowledge that they must stay together. However, the underlying problems never go away.
When the kids are finally grown, the spouses have the house to themselves, and they are left with a marriage that never fully worked for one or both of them. There is then little to stop them from ending the marriage. Even if they never had problems beforehand, their entire relationship may have been centered around the children. They may have no independent relationship of their own to fall back on when the children are gone.
Spouses may also have the proverbial midlife crisis. This can be very real for some as they start to deal with the effects of getting older. There are some people who may think about what they want to do and accomplish, and sometimes, their goals may not include their spouse. They may be unhappy with their relationship and view it as their last chance to find true love in their lifetime.
Paradoxically, long life expectancies increase the odds of a midlife crisis. When one turns 50, there is more of a thought that they are not too far from the prime of their life as opposed to nearing senior citizenship. Spouses may also think that they have time for another lasting relationship that is not the one they are in now. Some may feel as if they are getting a “second wind” as they get older, and their spouse may not be in the same place.
Some gray divorces are caused by infidelity, and people may begin to find others more attractive after a long marriage. The American Psychological Association reports that infidelity is the main cause of 20% to 40% of divorces. Unfortunately, the prevalence of technology makes infidelity easier than ever these days. Spouses may find themselves in different places when it comes to their sexual needs and desires as they get older.
In addition, the “empty nest syndrome” is also very real, and it impacts how people look at life. Raising children is an all-encompassing challenge that takes the full efforts of two people for years. When the job is done, people may look for something new to do with their life, and it may not involve their spouse. This will cause parents grief as they feel they lost their kids, and it may change how they view all of their relationships. The loss of purpose, as well as depression, could cause people to turn away from their marriage.
Spouses may have been fighting about money for years. As they get closer to retirement, finances become more of an issue. A couple could find itself in debt when they need to save money the most, and they may have sharp differences of opinion about how to handle finances. Money arguments are one of the leading causes of divorce in the country, and these issues do not go away as people get older.
Finances could also come into play because one spouse has been established as the primary breadwinner in the family. This could cause issues about saving and money management. Financial disparities between the two spouses could build over time and cause resentment. One spouse could disapprove of the way that the other handles or spends money, especially if they feel that the couple needs to save more.
Finally, there may be lingering resentments that have accumulated over the years. Water under the bridge can build up over time, and spouses may find that their marriage has too much baggage to survive for the rest of their lives.
Although there are numerous reasons for this phenomenon, there is a very simple possible explanation. After a long marriage of ups and downs, spouses may simply fall out of love with each other. It takes a lot to maintain a marriage for decades. For whatever reason, people may just lose the desire and motivation and decide that they want to move in a different direction.
Spouses should be prepared for a gray divorce, and it is not something they can take lightly. There are disturbing statistics about the number of people who divorce over the age of 50 who end up living in poverty. One should go to every possible length to plan so that they can live as comfortably as possible. The longer life expectancies sometimes mean that people can outlive their money.
This may be your only chance to negotiate for financial security for the rest of your life. There could be large retirement accounts and investments at stake. You should consult with a divorce lawyer about the strategy to use. A family law attorney can help you work through asset division issues.
Even if there are no children involved, gray divorces can still be complicated. A family lawyer can point out considerations that one may overlook during the divorce process. It is important to get the best possible settlement because you may not have time to rebuild yourself financially or save sufficiently for retirement.
This is not the type of divorce that you should go through on your own because the stakes are so high. Your family lawyer will help you negotiate the divorce agreement so that you are not left financially struggling as you get older. Call Jeralyn Lawrence at Lawrence Law at (908) 645-1000 today to discuss your situation and get help.
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