Divorce is On the Rise Among Americans Over 50

If you’ve been married a long time and find yourself thrust into a divorce situation, you are not alone.  Although divorce is becoming less common for younger adults, so-called “gray divorce” for older adults is on the rise.

According to an article in the Journal of Gerontology, the divorce rate for adults 50 and older has roughly doubled since the 1990s in the United States, to 10 divorces for every 1,000 married persons aged 50 and older in 2015.  In that same period, the divorce rate has almost tripled for those aged 65 and over, and the rate has also climbed slightly for couples between the ages of 40 and 49.

While divorce is stressful for everyone, older adults face additional challenges.  Older divorcees are usually less financially secure, and living alone at an older age can bring social isolation, less satisfaction, and problems when illness strikes.

Divorce, dividing property, deciding what is best for children, and other family law issues are emotionally charged situations that are life-changing for everyone involved.  Making mistakes can be costly, both financially and emotionally, so it makes sense to consult an experienced family law attorney.

The seasoned and compassionate Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. always focus on our clients’ needs and feelings, and we work to clarify and resolve the issues you are facing in the most effective and efficient manner.  We offer a free consultation to help you find the best solution for your individual situation.  Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.

Why the Increased Divorce Rate

One reason for the climbing divorce rate for adults 50 and older has to do with the aging of the Baby Boomers, who now fall into this age group (born 1946–1964).  Boomers have always had a high divorce rate, since they  came of age during a period of rapid acceleration of divorce and remarriage that occurred in the 1970s and early 1980s.  With divorce a common occurrence around them, older adults tend to be more accepting of divorce in general.  And the Boomer generation was exposed to an emphasis on individual fulfillment and less tolerance for a marriage that may interfere with it.

Additional reasons for gray divorce include:

  • Instability — Boomers have had instability and extremely high rates of divorce in their young adulthood. Boomers generally married at an earlier age than young people do today, and those marrying young are often less mature, finished with their education, and set in their careers.
  • Remarriage — Already divorced boomers who remarry have a higher rate of divorce — double that of those who have been married only once (16 vs. eight per 1,000 married persons, respectively). So 48% of adults 50 and older who divorced in 2015 were in their second or subsequent marriages.  Those who have been divorced before are more likely to be willing to divorce again, while some of those in first marriages are unwilling to ever divorce.
  • Short marriages — Adults 50 and older who have been married for a shorter time have higher divorce rates — 21 people per 1,000 married persons for those in marriages of less than 10 years, compared to 13 people per 1,000 married persons for adults 50 and older married for 20 to 29 years.
  • Longer marriages — While the divorce rate is lower for boomers who have been in longer-term marriages, about 34% of those divorcing had been married for 30 years or more and 12% had been married for 40 years or more. According to a report in the New York Times, this is because many later-life divorcees who were unhappy in their marriages over the years want to be free to pursue their own interests and independence for their remaining years.
  • Lengthening life expectancies – Living longer decreases the chances that marriages will end through death and increases the risk of divorce. Marriages that change and evolve over a long period of time may no longer meet the needs the partners had at earlier stages, and many older couples grow apart. As couples get older they must deal with issues that include empty nests, retirement, or declining health, all of which can challenge their marriages.
  • Women in the work force — Since most Boomer women work, they have the economic independence of employment and retirement benefits to support themselves outside of marriage. Women are less likely than men to remarry after divorce and more likely to marry older men.


Contact Us For Help

The experienced Illinois family law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec handle all divorce cases with sensitivity, respect, and discretion.  We understand the special needs of older adults entering divorce and will analyze your situation to see what works best in your individual case.

At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., we made our reputation one client at a time, and we put every ounce of our ability into every case. There are no ready-made solutions in divorce and family law – every case needs to be considered on its own merit. Our lawyers take the time to delve deeply into the problems and to understand your goals and concerns. Then we develop a legal strategy designed to achieve those objectives and allow you to resolve issues as quickly, fairly, and peacefully as possible.

Delaying can only complicate your situation and make matters worse. Call us today for your free consultation at 630-305-0222 or contact our team online.

Attorney Natalie Stec

Natalie M. Stec, born and raised in Illinois, and earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her practice has been concentrated in significant pre and post decree marital and family law cases; including custody, visitation, support, and paternity matters. She has important criminal defense experience in both misdemeanor and felony cases. She is a very dedicated and passionate litigator. [ Attorney Bio ]