by John Eory, Esq.
A recent study conducted by Bowling Green University has determined that the rate of divorce among adults 50 years of age or older doubled between 1990 and 2010. This finding runs parallel to other studies that show the overall rate of divorce has not only stabilized but slightly declined during the same period. What does this mean?
Using U.S Census data, the Bowling Green (BG) study found that 25 percent of all divorces in 2010 involved persons 50 years of age or older compared to one-tenth of all such divorces in 1990. Moreover, and not surprisingly, the divorce rate for remarried older couples was substantially higher than for “first marrieds” (70 percent versus 48 percent). In an effort to answer why older couples are divorcing at such a rate the authors opined as follows:
The “marital biographies” of older adults have altered considerably as individuals who came of age during the 1970s and early 1980s when divorce and remarriage were accelerating are now entering middle and later adulthood. For example, in 1980, 19 percent of married persons age 50 or older were in remarriages. By 2010, that percentage had jumped to 30 percent.
Second, in examining “gray divorces” on economic and gender grounds, the authors found a “positive association” between full time employment by women 50 and older and the rate of divorce.
Next, the study found that longer life expectancies decreased the likelihood that marriages will end through the death of a spouse and increased the likelihood of divorce.
Finally, lifelong marriages have become difficult to sustain in an era of individualism and personal freedom. In other words, older adults are more reluctant than ever to remain in empty marriages once children have flown the nest.
Even if the overall divorce rate remains constant (much less declines) the BG study predicts that the rate of divorce among persons 50 or older will increase in relation to the overall divorce rate during the next 20 years. It is this author’s opinion that the declining overall divorce rate is not because more marriages will be successful but rather that the number of persons choosing to live together has increased and will continue to do so. It will be interesting to see how the law and society adapt to such changes in the years ahead.
John Eory is the Co-Chair of Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group in the Lawrenceville, New Jersey office. For questions, please contact Mr. Eory: firstname.lastname@example.org.