Boomer Divorce on the Rise
Not surprisingly, the Baby Boomers are setting yet another national trend—late-in-life divorce. According to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University, one in four divorcees these days is more than 50 years old.
Back in 1990, people aged 50 to 64 accounted for just 6.9 divorces per 1,000 marriages. That number nearly doubled to 12.6 divorces per 1,000 marriages in 2009—the last year that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) includes divorce data. And this spike in Boomer divorces happened while the overall divorce rate dropped for the United States.
Experts are calling the trend “gray” or “silver” divorce: divorce after age 40. And, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) said, “it is likely that the number of people going through divorce at midlife or older will increase,” in their groundbreaking study of the subject, The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond.
Attorney Daphne Webb sees two main reasons for the current rise in late-in-life divorce.
“I’m looking at this through my perspective, over the last 39 years of helping people through divorces,” Webb says. “It seems that nowadays when long marriages have lost intimacy over the years, spouses may be more likely to feel they have enough time left ahead of them to start over and achieve intimacy in a new relationship.”
“Also, women are now aware of laws that favor equal property division and sharing of income, at the end of a long-term marriage,” she adds. “Women are more likely in this generation to have their own incomes, compared to their mothers’ generation. For some marriages, this means less financial pressure to stay together.”
However, Webb explains that the issues facing older divorcees are different than those facing their younger cohorts.
She suggests that divorcing Boomers think about the following questions before they move forward:
- Does the family business need to be valued? Is it possible, or wise, to continue to own it together after a divorce?
- How will health insurance and social security work if we get divorced?
- How will we divide our pensions and retirement accounts if we get divorced?
- Will we have to sell assets in order to make the division come out equal?
- Will I be able to continue to share my spouse’s earned income, until he/she retires?
“At these older ages, financial security is very important for both parties,” she says. “Assets must be accurately valued, and a division of property (and perhaps income until retirement) must be accomplished, to meet both sets of needs.”