Considerations in divorcing after a long marriage

“Gray divorce,” meaning the dissolution of a marriage that occurs later in life, is distinct from divorce among younger couples in several important ways. For Ohio residents of all most groups, marriage and divorce rates both declined from 2008 to 2018. However, divorce after the age of 50 continues to be a rising trend as older American couples part ways.

Changing cultural attitudes change divorce rates

Beginning in the 1990s, family law attorneys began to see a noticeable uptick in the volume of clients who were ending their unions deep into their marriages. Conventional wisdom and historic trends had previously indicated that after enough time has passed older couples would usually simply grind out their marriages. This was due to a number of factors, including children or grandchildren, familiarity, shared life experiences and a sense of obligation to each another.

About 30 years, ago, these attitudes began to shift. Older Americans with children out of the home started to see their futures differently. Accordingly, the divorce rate for the 50+ age bracket more than doubled.

Wealth often holds aging marriages together

Divorce can be expensive and sometimes even devastating financially, especially if one party has poor legal counsel. Again, this is where conventional wisdom gets things wrong. Instead of poverty keeping poor couples together out of necessity, the opposite appears to be true. The more wealth a couple has built together, the less likely they are to divvy it up in a divorce.

Gray divorce affects adult children

In addition to draining wealth, divorce also carries non-financial costs. Gray divorce, particularly if it is hostile, can affect grown offspring in much the same way that it might minor children. Many couples separating later in life believe that their children are better equipped to handle the news, but the emotional toll of divorcing parents impacts sons and daughters of all ages.

The bottom line on divorce after long marriages

Divorce at any age has significant social and psychological consequences for couples and their families. Sometimes, though, it is the best option for those involved. Much of the pain of gray divorce can be prevented through mediation.