Gray divorce may offer new start to older Americans

Many older Americans are getting divorced after years of marriage. Gray divorce can come with unique challenges.

In decades past, married couples tended to stay together, even if they were miserable. However, there is a newly emerging trend among many older adults in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country called "gray divorce." This movement illustrates people's confidence in their ability to take charge of their own lives without a partner, as well as a number of financial and emotional considerations that fewer couples would address just a few decades ago. The result has been an increase in people ending a marriage at a later age, rather than staying together "until death do us part."

According to National Public Radio, people over 50 are twice as apt to divorce as those of the same age group were two decades ago. About one out of every 10 Americans over the age of 50 divorced in 1990, compared to one in four today. What are the reasons for increasing divorce rates among those who are older? For one thing, many women have better opportunities to support themselves financially than they did in years past. Couples may find themselves with little in common after their children have grown and moved out of the home. Additionally, many people today are living longer and healthier lives, and they realize that even at a later age they can start their lives over after a divorce.

Older adults face unique challenges in divorce

A gray divorce may offer new opportunities, but it often comes with challenges not seen as much with younger couples who haven't been married as long. For example, states the Washington Times, dividing assets may be complicated for those who have been married for several decades. These may include retirement accounts and pensions, savings accounts, Social Security benefits and assets from a family business. Additional challenges older adults might face during a divorce may include:

• Experiencing depression after a major life change

• Dealing with medical problems and other age-related issues without a partner to help

• Helping adult children cope with seeing their parents divorce

It may also be difficult for one spouse who did not work during the marriage to return to the workforce in order to make ends meet. Some may find it hard to get a new job at an older age, especially if their job skills are outdated.

Moving on

Despite the setbacks of gray divorce, many can attest that starting over is worth it. Careful planning may make all the difference, states the Huffington Post. A financial adviser may be helpful in planning an effective budget based on retirement income. Job skills may be brushed up at local colleges or trade classes. It is also advisable to plan for later-in-life issues that may arise after a divorce, such as designating a caregiver now that there is no spouse to provide support. Many divorced seniors find that their adult children are able to help in some ways.

Divorce is rarely easy at any age, but it is possible to live a fulfilling life after the end of a marriage, whether you were only married for a few years or for several decades. To protect your interests, it may help to discuss your divorce options with a Boston family law attorney who has experience in gray divorce.

Keywords: gray divorce, assets