People over 50 are older, wiser, and getting divorced more than ever before. Divorce rates for people over age 50 have doubled in the past 20 years, so that one-fourth of people in this age group are now divorced, according to a study published in the Journal of Gerontology.
Divorce is on the rise in this age group for three main reasons:
- Life expectancy. People are living longer, increasing the number who are married in their older years and thus increasing the number of divorces.
- Empty Nests. Some couples with troubled marriages decide to stay together for their children, but when the children are gone, there is no reason to keep up the charade. Children leaving home can also turn a marriage on its head. Couples who are used to functioning as parents are suddenly two people alone in a house with different interests. The empty nest can turn a spotlight on issues in a marriage, and the emotional upheaval of the change can cause marital discord.
- Remarriage. Older people are more likely to have remarried and remarriages have a higher rate of divorce.
Navigating a divorce after the age of 50 can be challenging. At a time in your life when you thought you were comfortably positioned to enjoy life and age gracefully, you’re faced with a change that turns everything in your life upside down. Surviving a divorce after 50 is definitely doable, however, if you pay attention to a few key things:
- Your budget. Your household income is about to change drastically, perhaps being cut in half. This means you need to take time to consider all of your expenses and reevaluate your costs. Alimony often plays a role in divorces in this age group, so whether you will be paying it or receiving it, it is essential to talk with your family law attorney and have a realistic view of what to expect.
- Your home. You may have planned to live many more years in the family home, which may have been paid off by this point. In many senior divorces, the home needs to be sold in order for both spouses to have the funds to move forward and find new places to live. It may not be affordable to keep the home if a large percentage of your net worth is tied up in it.
- Your future. You and your spouse may have hoped to care for each other as you aged. Instead you must now think about how to plan for the assistance you may be need in the coming years.
- Your health. Divorce is one of the largest stressors you may ever encounter, so be sure to take the time to care for yourself. Staying active and healthy requires work. A large part of that is remaining connected to your social support system.
- Your family. A divorce is shocking and disturbing to your adult children, who will need time to adapt. You will need to retool family traditions and relationships in the coming years.