So-Called Gray Divorce on the Rise

When Paul McCartney and the Beatles sang, "Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64?" the age 64 had different connotations associated with it. Now McCartney is 70 and recently married to his 52-year-old third wife. McCartney's marriage portrait mirrors that of the baby boomer population in which "gray divorce" is on the rise. In 2009, about 1 in 4 people who filed for divorce were over the age of 50.

Whereas in past generations people often become ill and died before the age of 50, now boomers are experiencing greater health later in life and pursuing personal goals into much older age. This means people in New Jersey and around the country may decide to fly the coop once the children are away at college and start a new nest elsewhere.

While the overall divorce rate has declined, the rate of divorce of couples over the age of 50 has doubled in the last two decades. Even with these climbing numbers, researchers on divorce aren't exactly sure what's causing this rise. There are various explanations, but it's hard to pinpoint exactly what's making this segment of the population turn to divorce more than ever before.

Why is Gray Divorce on the Rise?

The United States Census Bureau doesn't ask for what caused the divorce when calculating their numbers, but other surveys provide insight into why some people are divorcing over age 50. One survey conducted by the AARP in 2008 asked 1,148 people why they divorced between the ages of 40 and 69. Of those surveyed, 27 percent listed infidelity/adultery as the cause of the divorce, but that is a similar rate across all ages of people divorcing. Adultery is one of the grounds for divorce in New Jersey.

Researchers at Bowling Green State University have pointed out that one of the biggest risk factors in a gray divorce is having been divorced previously. The risk of divorce is 150 percent greater for a marriage involving people who have already been divorced one or more times than it is for a first marriage. The divorce risk factor of being married for fewer than twenty years at the time of filing for divorce relates to these second and third marriages. This is because the marriage of a couple who marries in their forties will not be very old by the time the couple divorces in their fifties.

Women are the ones initiating the divorce in 66 percent of gray divorces. Part of the reason behind gray divorces may be that individuals have come into marriage with different goals than in previous generations. A person may realize after the child-rearing is mostly completed that they are no longer being fulfilled, and so they choose to get out of the marriage while they still have a chance to do more in life. This can place a financial burden on women, however, especially in tough economic times. Later-in-life divorce can also hurt men because they may see their children less.

Although the reasons that gray divorce is on the rise may be murky, the AARP found through a survey that 80 percent of those who went through divorce later in life reported they are happy - but also reported more life satisfaction if they had remarried. Whatever your age, a qualified divorce attorney can help you through the divorce process.