The New York Times recently published an article about the growing trend of "gray divorces", with more and more people over the age of 50 divorced or separated than ever before. Fifty years ago, only 2% of people over the age of 50 were divorced. In 2011, the last year that it was measured, 15.8% of people over 50 were divorced, and another 3% were separated.
In many cases, these baby boomer divorces are between people who were in second or third marriages, who are already statistically more likely to get divorced. There was, however, a noticeable increase in divorces in marriages that had lasted for over 25 years. In 2011, 28% of all divorces were between people who were over 50.
There are several reasons attributed to this increase in the divorce rate. The major reason is the financial independence of women and the lessening stigma of being divorced. While it used to be that women were largely financially dependent on their husbands and were socially condemned for being divorce, now they can take care of themselves and can look forward to a more happy life going forward. Most gray divorces are initiated by women, who according to Prof. Stephanie Coontz, "with their increases work experience and greater sense of their own possibilities . . . are less willing to just 'wait it out."
Another reason is the increase in life expectancy. Til death do we part used to be a thirty year deal, when people were only living into their fifties and sixties. These days, if you are in your fifties and sixties and healthy, you can reasonably expect to live another active 20-25 years. Therefore, once the nest is empty and the kids are gone, there is still a long time that you will be living in your bad relationship. If you divorce, you will live long enough to enjoy the benefits. Further, simply the fact of living longer increases the risk of divorce. Bowling Green sociologists Prof. Susan Brown and Prof. I-Fen Lin report, "lengthening life expectancies decrease the likelihood that marriages will end through death and increase the length of exposure to the risk of divorce." They project that there will be a 25% increase in the number of people over 50 who will experience divorce in the next 20 years.
Considering a divorce? Contact our experienced Pittsburgh divorce attorneys today before you take that step, to come up with a strategy that works for you!