By Sophya Qureshi Raza
The Wall Street Journal reported in ”The Gray Divorcés” in its March 3-4, 2012 issue that the divorce rate for people age 50 and over has doubled in the past two decades. Interestingly, one in 10 divorces was for couples over age 50 in 1990 and this number has drastically increased to one in four in 2009. And this has occurred in a time when the overall national divorce rate has declined since the 1980s. These statistics are based upon research by sociologists Susan Brown and I-Fen Lin of Bowling Green State University. 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 argue that baby boomers are the first generation that entered into marriage with different expectations from previous generations. They looked to 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 the role of provider or homemaker.
Also, 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, people that 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.
It may not be a good decision for them in today’s economy: cost of housing, continuing education, cost for raising children, etc. And 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.
But the women say they are happier divorced. Over 80% rate themselves 5 or higher on a scale of 1-10, with 56% at a level of 8-10.
With that said, 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.
Posted by Attorney Sophya Qureshi Raza. Raza practices family law where she effectively guides clients through dissolution of marriage, modifications of prior judgments, and resolving child custody and paternity disputes. She also helps families with legal guardianships and conservatorships for the elderly and disabled.
03/7/12 3:26 PM
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