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Divorces Can Come In Shades Of Grey

For many, life in their 50's is not what they had hoped for.
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elderly couple relationship issue
elderly couple relationship issue

I had a friend who used to say, "Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies." For some couples, that is true. They embrace the newfound freedom and, even though not as energetic as they once were, try to relive the time when they were newlyweds and explored the world together.

For many, though, life in their 50's is not what they had hoped for. As a divorce lawyer over the age of 60 who has practiced family law for 35 years, I have been witness to many late-in-life divorces. I have had the opportunity to speak with my clients about the reasons for the breakups. Every situation is unique, but there are some common threads among these splits.

The most common thing I hear is that the spouse dissatisfied with the marriage has realized that he or she does not have many years left to find happiness. When that realization hits, he or she tries to determine the happiest use for those years, which unfortunately may not include his or her partner.

Most people think of divorce as being caused by infidelity or dramatic fighting. Sure, that happens, but I have witnessed many, many instances where the couple has just drifted apart. In those situations, the person wanting out doesn't have a person in mind to replace the present partner, but rather is content with the idea of just exploring what is out there in the world. Unlike the divorces where the litigation resembles "The War of the Roses", these couples can generally work things out amicably and move on with a fair division of assets and without spending lots of money on divorce lawyers.

The one thing that makes it easier to divorce later in life is that you do not get into battles over the children. Your kids are grown and are not part of the equation -- at least in court. They can become part of the equation, though, if you are not careful. Most adult children are protective of their parents. If you are perceived to be the one starting fights and not playing fair, you could find yourself ostracized from not only your adult children, but those cherished grandchildren who are the center of your life.

The statistics show that the percentage of divorces involving couples over the age of 50 has increased dramatically in recent years. Dr. Susan Brown from Bowling Green State University conducted a research project on divorce in older couples and produced a report that has been cited by many major publications. The most alarming statistics involved a comparison between senior divorces in 1990 and senior divorces in 2009. She found that in the 19 years that separated those two samples, the number of active divorces involving people over the age of 50 jumped from one in ten to one in four.

My advice: When the kids leave home, talk to your spouse, get close to each other once again, maybe even go see a marriage counselor. If everyone does that, the divorce lawyers like me will see fewer 50 year olds in our offices seeking a legal split.

I know you are worried about me, but I'll find something else to do.

To learn more about gray divorce, contact Stann at

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