The Anatomy of a Gray Divorce

Choosing to be single again after the age of 50

By: Dianne Van Voorhees
THE HARRIS LAW FIRM

People are often stunned and saddened when an older couple that has been married for many decades announces their decision to divorce. But the dissolution of marriage among those who are over 50 is continuing to rise as baby boomers move toward retirement. The divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled since 1990, and for those over age 65, it is even higher. This is according to a study by the National Center for Family & Marriage at Bowling Green State University.

ACCEPTING CHANGE

Older couples divorce for many of the same reasons that younger couples dissolve their marriages, but there are significant differences. Rather than dissolving their marriages due to infidelity and/or abuse, more often older couples that have been married for many years simply find that they have drifted apart over the course of the marriage. They become aware that their needs have changed over time and their goals are no longer in alignment with those of their partner. The fact that people are living longer, coupled with our current culture’s approbation of personal development and the ready acceptance that even the best of marriages do not last forever, also contributes to the growing number of late-in-life divorces.

DIVORCE AS A SOCIAL NORM

Margaret “Peggy” Walker, a domestic relations lawyer, a collaborative attorney and a mediator at The Harris Law Firm, has handled dozens of divorce cases involving mature couples over the course of her career. “The graying of divorce is more common now than people realize,” she says. “Historically, the institution of marriage was based on a number of practical and economic considerations, but when ‘The Pill’ was developed in the 1960s, this highly convenient and effective form of contraception allowed the baby boomer generation to enter into marriage with more far-reaching goals and expectations that included self-fulfillment and personal happiness.”

In previous generations, couples stayed together even if they were very unhappy, but when the boomers decided they were no longer content within marriage, they made arrangements to find their bliss elsewhere.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the July 17, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.