Practice of Divorce Has Evolved and So Have the Statistics

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC

While the overall divorce rates have been decreasing, the rate among baby boomers has increased. Bowling Green State University researchers analyzed the divorce rate data from the federal government and determined that the divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has doubled over the last 20 years. (http://ow.ly/euG45) This brings about different concerns in this day and age.

Several factors attributing to this large increase include the increased age expectancy, the way people view marriage as no longer forever, and the changing views on life after divorce. People of this generation may have wanted to wait until all  the kids were grown before leaving an unhappy marriage and now that the kids are out of the house, they do not see themselves living together anymore as a couple. With the average person living longer, why spend those next decades unhappy? Many people fall in love with someone else, possibly where they work. Not all women stand by their man forever and vice versa. Now that women have been in the workforce for several decades, they may have more financial independence. The social stigma and religious taboos that existed when this generation married have weakened considerably. There will not be the negative connotations that they would have felt so many years ago.

Unfortunately single Americans in their senior years tend to face more economic hardship than younger married couples. Unmarried elders are more likely to live in subsidized housing, and “this generation has fewer kids than the earlier generations had to help them along,” if needed, said William H. Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer. “Baby boomers in general are not likely to have that sure retirement their parents had — a real pension, their savings, steady Social Security and medical coverage or other “reliable security blankets,” he said (http://ow.ly/euswj). Financial aspects are more serious at this age, and the issue of retirement plays a stronger role in the divorce process than divorce among younger couples.

While divorce is never an easy decision, baby boomers are choosing it more frequently than any other age group, with 25 percent of all divorces occurring between couples who have been married 20 years or longer, according U.S. Census Bureau statistics.  

Laws for a divorce in the 21st century are quite different and allow a more equitable settlement on division of property now versus twenty years ago.  Navigating these laws, however, has become more complicated as time goes on.  Beyond the laws themselves, the procedure and handling of the resulting cases in the local courts is not something a non-lawyer should contemplate.  There are too many traps for the unwary that can harm a person's case.

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