An op-ed recently appeared in the Los Angeles Times entitled Gray divorce: Why your grandparents are finally calling it quits.  While divorce rates, in general, are trending downward, the rate among those over 65 years of age is skyrocketing.  Fifty years ago, only 2.8% of Americans over 50 were divorced. Fast forward to today and that number is more than 15% with approximately 1 in every 4 divorces occurring among couples over 50.  I am seeing this in my divorce mediation practice.

Why is there an increasing rate of gray divorces happening according to the authors?  A number of reasons:

  • Americans are living longer.  The life expectancy if you reach 65 is another 18.8 years (up from 17.5 years), with more than 10 of those years expected to be disability-free.
  • Older people are more likely to be on a second or third marriage.  Statistically, those marriages are 2.5 times more likely to end than a first marriage.
  • The baby boom generation was the first to see increased workplace involvement by women.  The women of that generation are more financially independent and more willing to brave life alone if they are unhappy in their marriage.

Like any divorce, there are a number of downsides to gray divorces:

  • Dividing assets and liabilities later in life can be more complicated.
  • Living on a fixed income (now split) can be challenging.  Many couples planned their retirement around jointly used fixed incomes.
  • While adult children are often relieved that parents are ending an unhappy relationship, the divorce can cause relations with adult children to suffer, with less contact, less closeness and more tension — especially for divorced fathers.
  • Children and grandchildren can face the difficulty of having to choose which parent or grandparent to invite to celebrate a particular holiday, birthday, vacation, etc.

Mediation can be a good option for those who are contemplating a gray divorce.  Contact me to learn more and if mediation might be good for you.