America's divorce rate hovers at about 50 percent. Some years see a bit of an uptick, and others decline slightly, but things generally average out to about half of all first-time marriages ending in divorce. The rates for subsequent marriages are generally higher, at approximately 70 percent.
Traditionally, once a married couple hit a "certain age," divorces were nearly unheard of. Times have definitely changed, however.
- For the over-50 demographic, the dissolution rate has more than doubled since 1990 (before, there were an average of five divorces for every 500 couples, now there are 10).
- Research by the Pew Foundation reveals that the rate of divorce for couples over the age of 65 has tripled in that same timeframe (six divorces for every 500 couples now versus two in 1990).
What's fueling the gray divorce trend?
There isn't a single definitive cause for the sharp increase in senior citizen married couples going their separate ways. Experts have noticed a number of factors and trends that seem common, though:
- More emphasis on self-growth, self-care and personal fulfillment - people are less inclined to stay in an unhappy marriage just to maintain the status quo. Presumably, they'd rather live out their twilight years alone, or with a person that brings them joy. This is particularly true when one spouse is content to remain relatively stagnant (not learning new skills, not pursuing interests, not staying active) while the other is more dynamic.
- Economic stability amongst "baby boomers" - overall, people in their 50s and 60s now are more prosperous than previous generations have been. Economic freedom will allow for a divorce without too much of a downgrade in standard of living. In the past, financial uncertainty could have kept a couple locked into an unhappy union.
- Increased life spans - today's average life spans are among the highest in American history. People are living 20 or 30 years after retirement nowadays; the thought of passing the time with someone you no longer love could be the last straw.
The decision to divorce is a difficult one, especially if you've spent the better part of a lifetime with your spouse. To learn more about the divorce process, and to take the first step towards starting your new life, contact an experienced divorce attorney in your area.