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Understanding the growing trend of "gray divorce"


Michigan Baby Boomers may be noticing a trend among their married friends: divorce. It was once a rarity when senior citizens or couples married for 20 years or more got divorced. In 1900, the divorce rate for those ages 50 and older was 1 in 10. Now, it is more than doubled to 1 in 4. What are the reasons for this trend?

Although there is no solid reasoning behind the increase of "gray divorces," many researchers believe that part of the reason could be that Baby Boomers are more likely to find divorce acceptable. They were the first generation to divorce in large numbers. Those who watch their parents divorce are more likely to go through a divorce themselves. Nowadays, divorce no longer has the stigma that it once had. It is not uncommon for people to marry multiple times.

In addition, people are living longer and, therefore, thinking more about their future. Do they want to spend their 70s and 80s, and beyond, with the same person? Most of these late-life divorces are initiated by women. Women are more often the breadwinners in the household and ,thus, better able to care for themselves financially than younger women.

Couples also consider divorce later in life because the children are grown. This eliminates common issues that younger couples face, such as child custody and child support. Nonetheless, alimony is still a big concern for those going through a gray divorce. If the man is the main income earner, then he may be required to pay his wife alimony, or vice versa. It can work both ways, with the woman increasingly offering financial support to their man. No matter at what age it occurs, divorce should not be taken lightly.

Source: Los Angeles Daily News, "Divorce: Seniors do it, even giant tortoises do it," Helen Dennis, Aug. 23, 2013

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