Divorce after 50

Illinois Family Lawyers Explain the Growing Trend of Gray Divorce

It can be disconcerting when an older person divorces. Family and friends may have concern for his or her emotional, physical, and financial wellbeing. If the marriage was decades long, there may be surprise at the unexpected split during the supposedly "golden years" of a couple that kept their personal problems private.

But new findings show that divorce amongst married seniors has continued to grow. Two sociologists at Bowling Green State University, Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin, have performed significant analysis of recent U.S. Census Bureau data and their conclusions shed more light on the divorce trends of older Americans. The study was based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's 1990 data and more recent annual American Community Surveys.

Some of the major observations include:

  • Overall, the United States divorce rate is the highest of any country
  • More than 600,000 Americans age 50 or older were divorced in 2010
  • For that age group, the divorce rate doubled in the two decades between 1990 and 2010, and the rate is expected to continue to increase
  • Of all 2010 divorces, about one-quarter of them were in the 50-plus age group
  • The older generation is now comprised of aging Baby Boomers; they have entered into second and subsequent marriages at a higher rate than previous generations. These subsequent marriages are more likely to end in divorce
  • Women's growing financial independence and ability to obtain meaningful jobs correlates to growing rates of divorce among older couples
  • Longer life expectancies correlate with rising gray divorce rates
  • Divorcing seniors tend to be those with less education than their peers
  • Divorce is more likely in older couples when unemployment is part of a household
  • The divorce rate of senior African Americans is much higher than that of other ethnic groups

Divorce & Wellbeing

The researchers raise concerns about how divorce in later life is linked to well-being, noting that more research needs to be done around that problem. Logically, younger family members will be concerned about elders suddenly living alone or without the physical and financial support of former spouses. Likewise, governmental social service agencies and nonprofits may be faced with greater demand for support of these newly single seniors.

From a legal standpoint, anyone in their older years facing divorce should consult with an experienced Illinois family law attorney. Issues of property and debt division and of spousal support may need to be carefully handled to see that sufficient assets are there in retirement.

At Wakenight & Associates, P.C., contact an office near you. Our convenient locations include Oak Park, Downers Grove, Mokena, Joliet, Aurora​, Elmhurst, Burr Ridge, St. Charles, Lake Forest, Northbrook, Schaumburg, and Chicago Loop.

To speak with a family law attorney:

  • In Cook or Lake Counties, call (888) 351-2843
  • In DuPage, Kane, or Kendall Counties, call (888) 339-4162
  • In Will, Kankakee, Grundy, or South Cook Counties call (888) 303-1846