Gray divorce brings unique challenges for baby boomers

Study finds older people more accepting of, and likely to, divorce

Baby boomers paved the way for the social acceptability of divorce decades ago, and those same baby boomers now appear to be spearheading the acceptability of so-called 'gray divorce' in the 21st century. According to Time magazine, recent studies have shown that one in four people currently going through a divorce are over 50 years of age. In many cases, gray divorces involve people who are in their second or third marriages. The issue brings with it many challenges for a new generation of seniors who no longer see divorce as socially unacceptable.

Baby boomers divorcing

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, baby boomers, especially those who have already been through a divorce in their younger years, are largely driving the gray divorce phenomenon. Although divorce rates have largely stabilized for most demographics in recent years, older Americans have bucked the trend by divorcing more frequently and in greater numbers. Indeed, older people today are twice as likely to divorce as older people were as recently as 1990.

A greater social acceptance of divorce among older individuals, including a greater likelihood that people over 50 know somebody who has already divorced, is likely fueling the increasing gray divorce rates. Also, increasing life expectancies are leading many people to wonder whether they want to spend potentially decades in retirement with someone they are no longer happy with.

Questions to ask

Of course, gray divorce also brings with it a number of risks, especially financial ones. Spouses who have relied on their partners financially for decades are often the most vulnerable following a marriage breakdown. Because retirement has so many unique financial aspects, gray divorce cannot be approached the same as any other divorce. Getting a divorce wrong, after all, could have severe financial consequences in both the immediate and long-term future.

Older individuals considering a divorce need to seek professional advice, especially concerning dividing marital assets, pensions, and social security. In many cases, for example, a spouse can get up to half of his or her ex-spouse's social security. However, such prudent financial decisions require research and knowledge about dividing marital property and assets.

Legal advice

Because professional advice is so important for people going through a gray divorce, an experienced family law attorney should always be sought on such vital legal matters. A qualified attorney can provide the advice clients need when dealing with the often complicated process of a divorce and she can help ensure clients make well-informed decisions to prepare them for the future.