While the U.S. divorce rate has declined overall in recent years, one group of people is bucking the trend: senior citizens. From 1990-2021, the divorce rate tripled among Americans aged 65 and older. The idea that someone is too old to start over, or that once you have been with your spouse for long enough, you must accept being in an unhappy marriage, is clearly going out the window.
A split between spouses in their 50s or older is known as “gray divorce.” Everyone has their own reasons for getting one, but some trends have appeared. Here are four common reasons that gray divorce happens in Orange County.
- Living longer. The current American life expectancy is much longer than it was when divorce started becoming common about 50 years ago. It is no longer unusual to live into your 70s, 80s and beyond and enjoy relatively good health. More and more, married people are looking at a long retirement and deciding they do not want to spend it in a failed marriage.
- The children are grown. It is not unusual for unhappy couples to stay married “for the children.” Once the kids are grown up, out of the house and living their own lives, that excuse goes away. In other cases, an empty nest forces spouses to spend more time together, revealing serious relationship problems.
- Being married before. The data suggests that people who already got divorced once (or twice) before are more likely to divorce again compared with people who have never gone through divorce. Thus, an older couple on their second marriage is more likely to split up than a couple who have been married for 30 or 40 years.
- Being in a rut. Some older people feel like their lives have become too routine and repetitive and that they are missing out on something. Getting divorced could be seen as a way of getting out of this rut.
Whatever reasons you (or your spouse) have for wanting a divorce later in life, you will need to ensure that you walk away with the financial resources to enjoy a comfortable retirement. You are entitled to your share of the community property whether you earned an income or not. Actually getting it usually requires the help of a seasoned divorce attorney.