Over the past two decades, while the divorce rate amongst the general population has essentially leveled off, an interesting trend has been noted among Americans over 50 years of age. This generation, typically referred to as the Baby Boomers, has seen a marked rise in the rate of divorce since 1990 in the U.S.
Researchers from Bowling Green State University studied information gathered by the Census Bureau to identify characteristics amongst these older divorcing Americans. According to the study, between 1990 and 2010, the divorce rate doubled for Americans over the age of 50. In 2010, there were 10 divorces out of every 1,000 married people over 50 — whereas, in 1990, there were only 4.9 divorces per 1,000 married people over 50 years of age.
Notably, the divorce rate for people under 50 decreased during the same time frame — from 19 divorces out of every 1,000 married people in 1990 to just 18 per 1,000 in 2010.
In 2010, a total of approximately 600,000 people aged 50 and above divorced their spouses.
To explain the discrepancy between the large number of couples over 50 opting for divorce and the steady rate for those under 50, researchers have examined trends among Baby Boomers who decide to divorce.
Are there commonalities among people divorcing later in life?
The researchers found that one of the main factors that contributed to the likelihood of a Baby Boomer getting divorced was whether the person had previously been divorced. According to the study, people over 50 were 2.5 times more likely to get divorced if they had been married and divorced previously. In fact, that rate rose even higher — to four times as likely — for people over the age of 65.
Correspondingly, a higher divorce rate was seen among those who had been married for a shorter period of time. For Americans over 50 who had been married for under 10 years, the divorce rate was 29 per 1,000 married people. A significant difference was noted among those married for over 40 years — the divorce rate was only 3.2 divorces out of every 1,000 married people.
In addition to prior marital histories, the researchers also identified certain groups that were more likely to obtain divorces later in life, including characteristics based on:
- Racial and ethnic background
- Income levels
- Employment status
- Level of education
Protect your rights when seeking a divorce later in life
When spouses over 50 decide to divorce, there are typically factors they must consider that are unique to so-called gray divorces. The amount of assetsacquired by the marital couple is often larger than a couple who decides to divorce at a younger age. Ensuring financial stability is particularly important as each spouse will generally continue employment for a shorter period of time than younger divorcing couples. Consequently, if you are over 50 and considering a divorce, consulting with an experienced family law attorney is a wise decision to ensure your rights are protected.