Why Are More Massachusetts Couples Getting Divorced Later in Life

by | May 8, 2024 | Divorce |

According to the Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research, divorce rates doubled for Americans over 55 and tripled for those over 65 from 1990 to 2021. At the same time, divorce rates among young adults have dropped.

The uptick in divorce among Baby Boomers is due to various factors, sociologist Brad Wilcox says, from cultural shifts in attitudes toward marriage to where these adults are currently at in life’s journey.

“There’s been an uptick in divorce among Baby Boomers since the 1970s,” Wilcox told Fox News Digital. “They were part of a generation that came of age in the 1970s and late 1960s when there was a much more individualistic spirit that was coursing through American life. It was called ‘The Me Decade’ by Tom Wolfe, who was a famous writer in that time.”

At the Institute for Family Studies, Wilcox analyzes marriage, family and divorce trends in the United States. He says time has shown that Baby Boomers are more likely to get divorced than other generations, in part because of the independent streak that’s shaped this generation.

“So from the 1970s onward, we’ve kind of seen that the Baby Boomers have been much more likely to get divorced,” he said. But there are other factors driving the “gray divorce” trend, he says.

After their kids have moved out, many Americans in their 50s and 60s are more comfortable getting divorced.

“I think more and more couples have some appreciation for this idea that it’s better for the kids’ sake to remain married, that your kids are more likely to flourish in school and in life if you remain married,” he argued.

His data show couples who neglect investing time, energy and attention in their spouses in favor of their kids struggle to “keep that spark alive in their marriage.”

Self-centered mindsets and misguided “romanticized” views of marriage can also lead couples to divorce, he says.

“After kids are gone, then they’re more likely to say, ‘Well, I’ve basically done what I can and should for my children. And now it’s time for me to experience romance’ at age 58 or 65 or even 72. So that’s a big part of the dynamic that is playing out as well,” Wilcox said. “Obviously there are cases too where people have been putting up with alcoholism or physical abuse or other more severe patterns in a marriage for many, many years. And they’re just like, ‘Well, I’ve had it, I’m out.’”

Sociologists say increased life expectancy and financial disputes also drive the “gray divorce” trend.

However, divorce later in life can have a “devastating” financial impact, particularly on women, one study found.

What is ‘divorce month’ and how can you avoid it?

According to research by sociologists at Bowling Green State University published in 2021, after divorce, “women experienced a 45% decline in their standard of living (measured by an income-to-needs ratio), whereas men’s dropped by just 21%.”

“These declines persisted over time for men, and only reversed for women following repartnering, which essentially offset women’s losses associated with gray divorce,” the study stated.

Divorce can take a heavy toll on most couples, but ensuing conflicts over homes, retirement savings and the assets invested in over a decades-long relationship can have an even more crushing impact on older couples.

“When people are getting divorced, even at a later age, they often pay a hefty financial penalty for it,” Wilcox said.

Certified financial planner Patti Black told USA Today that couples should consider carefully the financial costs before calling it quits.

“Count the costs. Maybe you try to ride it out. Maybe the money would be better spent on marital counseling than on a divorce attorney,” she said.

Should you be in the midst of a divorce or contemplating divorce, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar at 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation.



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