In the past two decades, the divorce rate for people age 50 and over has doubled, signaling a dramatic shift in divorce trends. In 1990, one in ten divorces involved couples over age 50; by 2009, this number drastically increased to one in four, according to statistics based upon research by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University. Considering that the overall national divorce rate has declined since the 1980s, this trend raises the question: What is happening?
One reason is simply that people live longer. Some of the marriages that would have ended due to death of a spouse are now ending in divorce.
Sociologists also argue that Baby Boomers are the first generation that entered into marriage with different expectations from previous generations. They looked at marriage as a way to have individual fulfillment, as opposed to how well each individual fulfilled their marital roles. Previously, husbands were the providers and wives were the homemakers and child-rearers. There was no thought to separate oneself as distinct from these roles.
Another reason is the increase in second marriages; 53% of people over age 50 that are getting divorced have been divorced at least once before. Your risk of divorce in your second marriage doubles between the ages of 50-64. If you are over age 65, the risk quadruples.
Empty nest syndrome seems to play a large role as well. With the children out of the house, couples who are unhappily married realize they don’t want to spend the next 25 to 35 years together. And with longer lifespans, one or both spouses – usually the woman – decide that they want out of the marriage.
This may not be a good decision in today’s economy with the soaring costs of housing, raising children, continuing education etc. There are other risks, too, such as losing close relationships with some or all of the children. As with marriages at any stage, reconciliation is still the best option, if at all possible, through counseling.
Still, women who make the decision say they are happier divorced. Over 80% rate themselves 5 or higher on a scale of 1 to 10, with 56% at a level of 8 to 10.
Whatever accounts for this significant uptick, all indications are that the trend will continue, and by 2030 there will be 800,000 divorces annually for those in the over-50 age group.
With a combined 30 years of experience in family law, the attorneys at Raza & Jones, LLC, compassionately guides people from all stages of life through the divorce process. For more information or to schedule a confidential consultation, call 314-449-8830.