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‘Gray divorce’ has different implications than younger splits

Many observers believe that the divorce rate in the U.S. is going down, and the numbers seem to back up that assertion. Dig deeper, however, and some interesting trends appear.

For example, it seems that the age a person is affects how likely he or she is to get divorced. The older a couple is, the more likely they are to get divorced than people in that same age group would have been 20 years ago.

A study by the Family and Marriage Research reports that about 25 percent of couples aged 50 or older were divorcing in 2009. In comparison, in 1989 only 10 percent of married people in their 50s and above were in the process of getting divorced.

Many of these couples have been married for decades, but one or both spouses have become unsatisfied. Or maybe they have wanted to split up for a long time, but stayed together for the children, financial reasons or other justifications. Now, they feel ready to end their marriage.

There are different issues related to a so-called “gray divorce” compared to a couple divorcing in their 20s, 30s or even 40s. For example, a 60-something couple likely will not have to worry about child support or child custody. But they are probably on the verge of retiring. Hopefully, they have been saving up to pay for their retirement. Now that the couple is divorcing, that retirement fund will have to be divided.

This could mean that each spouse will have to adjust their expectations for how they spend their retirement years. However, this could be worth it for people stuck in an unhappy or dysfunctional marriage.