There was a recent article in the Los Angeles Times addressing the growing rate of divorce in later years of marriage. The article summarizes statistics showing this is a large segment of the divorcing population. And it continues to increase.
The article outlines a number of potential reasons for this growing phenomenon:
As people live longer, there is more years after the children leave the home and retirement to enjoy life. People find themselves less likely to be complacent and stay in an unhappy relationship that could last for 20 or more years.
As the retiring generation has found more financial success, there are more resources available in later years allowing individuals to feel more comfortable living independently. They also have more resources to enjoy their lives.
Empty nest is a time when parents focus no longer points towards the children and it may coincide with having lost connection with the spouse. So many years of dedication to the children can lead to less time to focus on the marriage. Once the children leave, there may no longer be a functional marriage.
Parents feel that adult children may cope better with divorce as they have their own lives and means.
Societal comfort and acceptance of divorce has made it more tangible for older adults.
The article outlines the reasons why divorce is happening in the older generation. How they divorce, however, is not discussed. My collaborative practice has also seen an increase in gray divorce clients. By choosing an efficient, non-adversarial process, clients can preserve their resources and proceed in an amicable manner. Outcomes are often more easily reached when clients commit to a collaborative process.
To learn more about divorce processes regardless of your age, contact me.
The most significant increase in divorces nationwide has been among baby boomers, essentially those people born between 1945 and 1965. That is not terribly surprising given the high number of people in this age range. However, it does present new dynamics to divorce to the point where the notion of “boomer divorce” has started to reshape the way divorce happens.
Baby boomers who face divorce tend to have different issues, and different priorities, than other generations. For the most part their children are grown, or nearly grown. As a result, they do not need significant help with issues of custody or parenting. However, they tend to be very concerned about the well-being of their grown children; whether it comes to making sure that college is financed or addressing their children’s desire to have their parents behave amicably.
Children in their late teens or early twenty’s often care deeply about their parent’s divorce and the way that their parents face divorce can have an impact on their lives. If they are in college, they want to be able to visit each parent during school breaks and acrimony between parents can make that awkward or difficult. When they look ahead toward important life events like weddings, graduations, births and baptism, they want both parents to be able to participate without bringing unwanted tension to these life events.
I have heard many stories about parents who attend their child’s wedding and cannot be in the same room together. It is very sad to imagine a young bride or groom, on the most important day of their lives, having to focus on have to protect or care for one or both of their parents rather than focus on this important occasion. Many of have witnessed these sad occasions. At the same time, we have witnessed divorcing parents who are amicable with each other and can share the experience of their child’s wedding in a way that truly honors the event.
Baby boomers also care a great deal about planning for their financial future and in creating a divorce agreement that allows them to eventually enjoy their retirement years. With people living longer and remaining healthy will into their later years, there is generally a great deal of fear about the divorce altering their retirement plans. While divorce does take a financial toll on all of the family resources, including a division of retirement assets, boomers who use creative planning, including working with an interdisciplinary team that includes financial professionals, can find acceptable creative solutions.
The unique problems faced by most boomers are increasingly causing them to look for more amicable and creative options to help them divorce in a way that preserves their sanity, their co-parenting and their financial nest egg as much as possible. For information about those options go to www.collaborativelaw.org or www.divorcechoice.com.
My husband and I celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary this year. It feels like a big number but I don’t feel old or tired of the marriage. My husband and I have worked hard to keep our marriage fresh and vibrant, and we look forward to the next 20 or 30 years together. But as a collaborative divorce attorney, I know that even happy marriages can come to an end. In fact most marriages are happy, some for many years, before “stuff happens” and one or both spouses decide to end the marriage.
Before I became a “collaborative” divorce attorney and was merely a “traditional” divorce attorney, it was frightening to think of going through my own divorce. My experience as a “traditional” divorce attorney made me all too aware of the stress my clients and their spouses underwent in an adversarial process that sometimes exacerbated the conflict between them and put pressure on them to vilify or blame the other.
However, since limiting my practice to the out-of-court collaborative divorce process, I am no longer afraid of going through my own divorce if that became necessary. I know that my husband and I would be respected in the collaborative process and that we would work for the greater good of our family and for our mutual future security. While my marriage would be a great loss to me, I know the collaborative process is there to gently, effectively, and efficiently escort me and my husband through this important life event.
Don’t be afraid. If you are faced with or considering an end to your marriage, consider a collaborative divorce. You can find out more about it at www.collaborativelaw.org and www.mndivorce.com.
I sat in on a seminar recently with a room full of moms. Moms of babies, moms of toddlers, moms with children just starting elementary school. The topic was about learning to fall in love with your husband again, and the speaker was a woman in her 70’s. The dialog was mainly, “Do this to keep your husband happy, do that to keep your husband happy…” I think many were wondering why they got up early on a Tuesday morning to listen to old-fashion marriage advice. However, in between the eye rolls of many overtired moms, I caught the true message of the speech – don’t forget about your marriage, the kids are wonderful, but if you make them your whole world, they leave the nest, and the marriage is over.
I had not really thought about empty nest syndrome in this sense. I had mainly thought about the kids going off to college and the parents are alone in a big empty house, they are a little lonely, maybe start a new hobby, and life goes on. Only life doesn’t go on, at least not in that sense. Divorce after decades, the graying divorce, divorce after 50, whatever you may call it, is becoming more and more common. Decades of putting the kids first, likely putting the career second, and well, the marriage must have fallen down on the priority list.
When children are babies and toddlers they require about every last bit of energy you have; once they start school it’s homework, sports, and juggling schedules. Making it all too easy for the better part of 20+ years for your marriage to be entirely kid-centric. The graying divorce gives new meaning to staying together for the kids. The couple in many of these marriages might not have even seen it coming. Years of enjoying the children together – family vacations, neighborhood outings, cheering the kids on together from the sidelines, only to wake up one day and realize they no longer have anything in common, the kids were all they had in common.
A half-century ago, only 2.8 percent of Americans older than 50 were divorced. In 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 15.4 percent were divorced and another 2.1 percent were separated. Was it that divorce was more taboo 50 years ago, or maybe because people are living longer these days? A healthy 60 year old might look at it in terms of having 20+ years left; 20+ years that they are choosing to be happy, and ditching the unhappy marriage. Baby boomers are setting record high divorce numbers.
If you found yourself amongst this new era of divorce, the good news is you are in good company! There are support groups nationwide that are catering specifically to the increase in baby boomers and their graying divorces. Seek out divorcees going through a similar situation and create a support system. Most importantly, keep on living – enjoying yourself, pursue your interests, take on a new hobby, travel, and make the most of your new-found free time!