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Gray divorce: why older couples are peacefully divorcing

Overall, the divorce rate is decreasing in the United States. But, one surprising exception is that divorce among the baby boomer generation is on the rise. Over the 30-year span from 1990 to 2010, the divorce rate for those over age 50 has doubled. Experts say a primary reason for this phenomenon is that many boomers have put off divorce due to financial concerns and wanting to keep the family together until the kids grew up. Additionally, with retirement planning, boomers begin to explore their options for what to do with the rest of their lives - often, they conclude that sharing their remaining years with their spouse is not attractive.

Some additional factors that contribute to this marked increase include:

  • Couples grow apart - in gray divorce, there usually is not a single sudden event or culminating trigger event. Instead, couples have grown apart as they age. The couple's children were the glue that held the marriage together, as "empty nest syndrome" hits the home, couples are apt to pursue separate interests.
  • Age - when a woman is 10 years younger than her spouse, the difference may not seem great when the couple marries. But, after 20 or more years of marriage, the age disparity is more noticeable and far less desirable.
  • Boredom - Steve Siebold, a psychological performance and mental toughness coach, describes the boredom in a long-term marriage as follows: "Being around the same person 24/7, depending on the relationship, can lead to boredom," he says. "You work hard, play hard and take care of business, but you've stopped being the attentive, attractive spouse. You've allowed yourself to become complacent."
  • Financial issues -While possibly overlooked during child rearing, different financial attitudes and habits may finally come to a head. When this occurs, couples may seek an amicable parting.
  • Sex - Author Jessica O'Reilly says that differences in sexual appetites and activity are more pronounced after the age of 50 and often are a contributing factor to gray divorce.

Unlike divorces among younger Americans, which often involve child custody and financial issues, most of these "gray divorces" are uncontested. This means both parties are willing participants in the split and simply want to move on with their lives. In many instances, the divorced couple remains friends and sees one another at family events, especially those involving their kids and grandchildren.

The benefits of uncontested divorce

The most significant benefit of an uncontested divorce is that the total cost for legal representation is lower than in a contested divorce. For people approaching retirement, minimizing the cost of divorce is often important. Another benefit of uncontested divorce is that it usually takes less time to finalize. It also creates less animosity between the separating partners, since there are fewer demands for information and less court activity, both of which can lead to anger and resentment.

If you are over the age of 50 and are considering divorce, whether contested or not, contact family lawyer Phillip Greenberg in New York City.

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