Divorce rates growing among older Americans

A few decades ago, divorce used to be an issue that affected primarily young and middle-aged couples. In 1990, approximately 90 percent of all divorcees were under age 50. Recently, though, divorce rates among the baby boomer generation have skyrocketed - to the point that 25 percent of divorcees were age 50 or older in 2009. That year alone, more than 600,000 Americans age 50 and older got a divorce.

This change has led researchers and academics to question why there has been such a surge in "grey divorce" over the last 20 or so years.

Somewhat surprisingly, the divorce rate isn't going up because people are somehow "worse" at being married than they were in the past. Rather, the uptick has a lot to do with increased independence for women and the changing role of marriage in society.

Changing role of marriage

According to a 2004 survey by AARP, approximately 66 percent of divorces among couples between the ages of 40 and 69 were initiated by women. While some might think that infidelity (perhaps spurred by increased access to the Internet) is behind the trend, this isn't the case. In fact, only about 27 percent of divorcees listed cheating as one of their top three justifications for divorce.

Instead, many women are finding that, now that the kids have moved out and they're back to just living with their husbands, they no longer feel like they need to be married. Perhaps they have advanced far enough in their careers where they no longer need a second income to lead a comfortable lifestyle. Or maybe after years of being engaged in the joint process of raising their children, they have realized that they no longer have that much in common with their husbands. Whatever the reason, an increasing number of women are simply deciding that they would be happier on their own.

This viewpoint has been enabled by a significant change in the role of marriage in society. Not that long ago, marriage used to be mainly an economic arrangement. However, in the 1970s and '80s-around the time many boomers were entering into their first marriages-the conversation started to shift towards seeing marriage as something that people did for happiness and personal fulfillment. Thus, when that sense waned, it made sense to get a divorce and try something new.

Choosing a divorce attorney

Whatever the reason for their split, it is important for older couples going through divorces to seek out help from experienced divorce attorneys. Grey divorces involve a number of special considerations, including complex property division, spousal support and dealing with retirement planning. Because of the high stakes involved, it is best to get help from someone who is well-equipped to manage these complicated issues.