Arons & Solomon | August 13, 2014 | Articles
NJ divorce rate of older couples is on the rise. In a landmark study of U.S. Census data, two sociologists have found that the rate of American divorce among older couples has risen sharply and will likely continue to accelerate.
Speculation abounds about the reasons for this phenomenon and family law attorneys must prepare older divorce clients, male and female alike, to face legal issues more important to people who may not have planned for their senior years as single persons.
Bowling Green findings
Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University have published the results of their widely discussed comprehensive study of divorce rates in the older population. Among their findings:
- Among people at least 50 years old, the divorce rate more than doubled between 1990 and 2008.
- Less than 10 percent of those who divorced in 1990 were at least 50; in 2008, that proportion had risen to more than one-quarter.
- More than 600,000 persons at least 50 years old ended marriages in 2008.
- Even if the older divorce rate remains the same, numbers of older people divorcing will continue to increase because the overall population is aging and because many elders are in second or subsequent marriages, which have a higher divorce rate than first marriages.
Why the rise in senior divorce
The literature is full of theories about this trend. Many observe that the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age has a number of firsts:
- The first generation to see the stigma of divorce fade.
- The first generation in which women advanced professionally at much greater rates, becoming more financially self-sufficient outside of marriage.
- The first generation to experience a greater societal emphasis on self-fulfillment.
In addition, the increase in life expectancies may convince more people not to stay in unhappy marriages.
Important financial and logistical matters must be carefully and creatively resolved in an older divorce. The couple that was going to finance one household in retirement now has to finance two homes, with little time remaining for either person to work and build up greater financial assets for the future. A spouse who would have been a built-in caregiver will now be absent, leaving the other to finance or arrange for other care as he or she ages.
Logically, division of assets like the family home, retirement accounts, investments and other items of value must be accomplished with these long-term concerns in mind. Unfortunately, recent economic problems have left some aging couples in weak financial positions and scarce resources are even more precious.
Similarly, alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support – the payment of money support from one ex-spouse to the other, usually monthly – is another crucial issue to an older couple. Likewise, they should look at whether insurance costs should be part of a divorce settlement such as long-term care insurance, life insurance and health insurance.
Finally, issues can arise related to children of the marriage like whether the couple will agree to provide for college tuition assistance.
Get a skilled family law attorney
If you are considering a divorce later in life, or if you are on the other side of the table and your spouse is ready to move on, talk to an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney who has experience with negotiation and litigation on behalf of older couples. Your lawyer can help you determine what issues are going to be especially important to you in ending your marriage in a way that leaves you safely set to move forward into a more secure future.