Divorce rates in America are on a decline, overall — except among couples 50 years of age and older.
Despite the fact that there is widespread social acceptance of divorce in this country — with many people not even concerned about marrying at all — divorce rates have dropped a staggering 18% in the years between 2008 and 2016.
However, it’s the younger generations that are breaking the records. Among older adults, the divorce rate is climbing higher and higher by the year. In 1990, only one out of every 10 couples over the age of 50 were likely to divorce. Now, the odds of a divorce in that age group are one in four.
What makes older people get divorced after a long-term marriage? The answers are complicated and may have as much to do with the changing nature of society as it does with the couples themselves.
In some cases, couples may have been unhappy for a long time but felt bound together out of a sense of loyalty or duty that was imposed on them by previous generations. As those generations die off, the stigma against divorce is also dying off, which is freeing the next generation from the sense that they have to stick it out in an unhappy marriage “for better or worse.”
The fact that personal development — rather than family structure — is seen as important for stability and growth may be another factor. Older people may just now be “finding themselves” after years of sacrificing for the sake of their families. With the children grown and out of the house, couples realize that they simply don’t have that much in common or have different life goals.
Then, there’s the overwhelming sense that comes with age that life is, indeed, short. Watching their friends get older, get sick or die may make some people reflect on how they want to spend their final years — and realize that they do not want to spend it unhappily wed.
If you’re an older individual who is contemplating divorce, it’s wise to talk to an experienced attorney about the process and what to expect.