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Divorce on the rise among older couples

Washington residents may be surprised to learn that the rate of divorce among couples over 50 has increased significantly, even though the overall divorce rate has dropped. In fact, one study indicates that the 'gray divorce" rate doubled between 1990 and 2010.

According to one therapist, it is common to see couples getting divorced either within the first seven years of marriage or after they have been married for at least 20 years. After 20 years, couples may experience more of an emotional disconnect in their relationships, which could include a lack of communication. Now that people have longer a life expectancy, unhappy spouses may decide they do not want to spend several years in retirement with someone from whom they have grown apart.

Couples may also find it easier to divorce once their children are out of the house, as there is no need to contend with child support or visitation. Additionally, as women become more financially independent, they see less of a need to tolerate bad behavior from their husbands, such as adultery. Since divorce is more accepted now than it was in prior generations, women may feel more emboldened to leave an unsatisfying relationship.

In community property states like Washington, all assets acquired during marriage are required to be split 50-50 in a divorce unless the parties agree otherwise. This division may present a challenge to individuals with retirement accounts, as many people begin contributing to these accounts before marriage (meaning some of the retirement assets are separate property). Couples getting a divorce at an older age are likely to have more assets than younger ones which can make the divorce process seem overwhelming. Individuals going through a high-asset divorce are especially likely to benefit from the guidance of a family law attorney.

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