The Graying of Divorce


In the past, married folks over 50 were likely to stay in their relationships until “death do us part”. However, recent studies have shown that since 1990, the divorce rate for older couples has more than doubled.  Some of the potential causes of the increased rate of divorce among older couples are discussed below. 

Increased Lifespan

One partial explanation for the higher divorce rate is the ever-increasing lifespan of the average American. From 1990 to 2016, the average lifespan of an American increased from 75 to 78.5. So, when someone is 50 and married, with the potential to live past 80, it’s much more likely for an unhappily married spouse to envision the prospect of a more satisfying future over the next 3 decades of their life and be more likely to venture into divorce.  However, age isn’t the only factor affecting the graying of divorce.

Less Traditional Viewpoint of Marriage

Thirty years ago, the average American viewed marriage and sexuality differently than it is seen today. In the past, the institution of marriage was viewed as a necessary step for a healthy long-term relationship and a pledge for a life together under the law.  Living as a single person, cohabitation, or getting divorced was stigmatized and looked down upon. Such values and traditions were more conservative than today.  Now, many would argue that marriage is merely an option providing certain tangible benefits, e.g., insurance, tax breaks, etc., but accompanied by red tape, and long-term commitment they may not want to have.  So that, today’s couples may be more willing to forgo their vows based on the modern social views about marriage. These social views also may stem from the blending of cultural and religious backgrounds of people today.

Religious Changes

Generally speaking, religion and marriage is often strongly connected, and so the more religious people are, the more likely they are to feel bound to marriage compared with those who are less observant.  It’s no surprise the America of today is less religious than it was in 1990. Back then, the religiously unaffiliated accounted for 8% of America’s total population: today, they account for 24%. As a result, the strong connection between spiritual roots and the institution of marriage is less of a factor to those who are not strongly affiliated with religion. This changing trend may very well be impacting divorce rates, as well as the personal change by one spouse versus the other regarding their religious observance.  Our more secular society means individuals are less concerned about sexual relationships outside marriage, or “living in sin.”

Beyond One Cause

Every relationship is different, and a couple’s decision to divorce is often more complicated than a single reason.  As such, our firm believes every person has the right to consider a separation or divorce if it is the right decision for them.  If you are ready to seek information about how a divorce later in life will affect you, know that Wisselman, Harounian, and Associates is here to guide you every step of the way.

Call (516) 773-8300 now for a free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys.

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