baby boomer divorceThe U.S. divorce rate peaked in the late 1970s and began falling, except among persons born between 1946 and 1971.  Baby boomer divorce rates doubled after 1990, and among couples over 65, the divorce rate almost tripled.  What’s causing this spike in gray divorces?  The causes of gray divorce include living longer, growing apart, higher expectations, having more money, women getting educated, infidelity, and more post-divorce options for divorced spouses.  However, there is a down side to divorce for women in poor health with few assets.

The Longevity Bonus.

Spending the last 30 years of your life with someone you hate sounds dreadful.  Baby boomers expect to live longer than earlier generations and they want to enjoy their golden years.  Because there is little stigma to getting divorced today, more and more baby boomers are untying the know in search of fulfillment.

Growing Apart.

Most grey divorces are not marked by serious discord.  Instead, older divorcing couples report they simply drifted apart.  Researchers are not certain why older Americans are increasingly turning to divorce or why over 80 percent of divorces are initiated by educated women, but they have some ideas.

Higher Expectations.

One theory is that women’s expectations for a “good” marriage have increased.  Women now want their spouse to be their best friend and their marriage relationship to be a major source of happiness.  When their spouse cannot meet these heightened expectations, they divorce him.

More Assets.

Because baby boomers have accumulated significant assets, it’s easier for them to divorce–there is enough money for both spouses to manage comfortably afterward.  Marriages with few assets are difficult to terminate because there is no money left after the split.

More Educated Women.

Another likely cause of grey divorce is that many older women are educated, financially independent, and crave autonomy.  Older educated women realize they can get a divorce because their children are grown, they don’t have much in common with their spouse, they can expect to live at least another 20 years, and they can afford to live alone because they are employed and have accumulated retirement funds.

Infidelity and Divorce.

Another cause of grey divorce is adultery.  Baby boomers came of age during the sexual revolution and enjoyed many more sexual partners than earlier generations.  These early sexual experiences may have given baby boomers a taste for sexual variety.  The sense of betrayal when someone finds their spouse has been cheating on them ends many marriages.

More Options Post-Divorce.

Older divorced women have more options today with online dating sites specifically designed for them and the stigma of cohabitation largely a thing of the past.  Older women no longer need to stay married for fear of social rejection and poverty.  To a lesser degree the same is true of rejected husbands; a grey divorce isn’t the end of the world for older men.  They have productive years ahead, there are plenty of opportunities to meet new people and with the right attitude they can enjoy the same freedom and sense of fulfillment as their former wives.

The Down Side of Divorce.

For men and women in good health and sufficient financial resources, a grey divorce means freedom, independence and personal fulfillment.  However, for older individuals in poor health with limited resources, divorce can drag them into poverty.  The average older divorced woman has only 20% of the net assets owned by a married couple of the same age.  Women who were widowed after age 50 possess more than double the wealth of the average grey divorcee because they have not had to share assets with a divorcing husband.

Collaborative Divorce

If you are a baby boomer and considering a divorce, the collaborative process offers many benefits.

First, the collaborative process is privacy–you can keep your dirty linen out of sight.  Moreover, the average cost of a collaborative divorce is around half the average cost of an adversarial divorce.  Participants in the collaborative process voluntarily produce all relevant financial and family information so they avoid lengthy and expensive discovery fights characteristic of adversarial divorces.   And, because collaborative divorces are settled through interest-based negotiation, clients control the outcome.  Collaborative meetings are scheduled at the convenience of the parties, which is a real advantage for busy professionals.

The collaborative process helps divorcing couples learn to communicate, respect each other and work together to reach a settlement.  A major advantage of collaborative divorce is that children are never put in the middle of the divorce.  Also, the collaborative process allows clients and their attorneys to reach creative settlements not available in court.  Finally, parents who  participate in a collaborative divorce learn to co-parent effectively after the divorce, which is healthy for their children.  For all these reasons, you should seriously consider a collaborative divorce if you are untying the knot.  You and your children will be much better off and it won’t cost as much as a litigated divorce.

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