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Divorce is complicated for older couples

Pennsylvania residents might be interested in learning some interesting trends in divorce statistics. While the overall divorce rate has slightly declined in recent years, the rate of divorce amongst those over the age of 50 continues to rise. As young adults, baby boomers created the highest divorce rates in history, and they have continued the trend as they age.

In a somewhat surprising statistic, a third of all the divorces of people aged 50 and up involve marriages that have lasted at least 30 years. These so-called 'gray divorces" bring troubling financial consequences for many people. Studies show that traditional gender roles have endured, and many women have ceded control of family finances to their husbands. Since women have longer life expectancies than men do, there are potential pitfalls for widows as well as divorcees who take a hands-off approach to finances. In a survey targeting divorced individuals over the age of 50, an alarming 56% of women reported discovering financial surprises during the break-up process. Not every surprise was negative, and many individuals discovered investments and retirement accounts that benefitted them financially.

A staggering 80% of divorced women over 50 who had remarried reported taking a more active role in finances during subsequent marriages than in initial ones. Consistently, 59% of widows and divorced women surveyed say they regret not taking a more active role in family finances. Over 90% of the women surveyed recommend demanding complete transparency regarding finances in marriage. While some men allow women to handle family financial decisions, it is more likely to be the opposite, and this has an adverse effect on women who divorce later in life.

The decision to divorce is difficult regardless of one's life stage, but understanding options is key for anyone considering such a life-altering decision. Consulting a qualified family law attorney can provide clarity and options, allowing couples to make informed decisions about their marriages and finances.

Source: Pew Research Center, "Led by Baby Boomers, divorce rates climb for America's 50+ generation," Renee Stepler, March 9, 2017

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