This past couple of years, we’ve seen some high-profile divorces of couples who had been married for decades. These include Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos, Bill and Melinda Gates and Dell and Sonya Curry.
All three couples are part of a trend that’s not just limited to the super-wealthy and famous. Divorces among couples over 50 years of age have increased significantly in the past 30 years. According to one study, a quarter of all people who end their marriages are now in this age group. These divorces have earned the ignominious moniker of “gray divorce.”
Some reasons for the “gray divorce” trend
There is a multitude of reasons for the trend. People are living longer, so if they’re unhappy in their marriage at 50 or 60 years of age, they may be looking at several more decades of unhappiness if they don’t do something about it.
Both spouses are now more likely to be financially self-sufficient than in decades past when women were often financially dependent on their husbands. Further, divorce has become a more socially acceptable solution for people who are unhappy in their marriages or who are dealing with a cheating spouse.
One sociologist also notes that people expect more from marriage than they once did. She says, “Americans expect marriage to provide them not simply with stability and security, but also with self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction.”
Infidelity plays a role in many of these later-in-life divorces. However, sometimes that’s as much a symptom of the unhappiness in the marriage as it is the cause of the break-up.
The complexities of ending a long marriage
Couples who divorce after decades, even when they don’t have the wealth of some of the notable figures mentioned above, have a lot to unravel and divide. There may be large retirement accounts, multiple properties, businesses and valuable assets collected over the years. The effect on the children and grandchildren shouldn’t be underestimated, either. Adult children can take their parents’ break-up very hard -– especially if they didn’t see it coming.
When you’re ending a long marriage, it’s crucial to have experienced legal and financial guidance. This can help ensure that you’re getting a fair settlement that will let you begin this new chapter of your life on a strong financial footing.