While the likelihood that a marriage would end in divorce has decreased slightly over the last several years, the number of Americans age 50 and older who are getting divorced is now at its highest level ever. A new study from researchers at the National Center for Family and Marriage Research shows that senior divorces have increased by 50% over the last several decades
In 1970, about 13% of people between the ages of 46 and 64 were divorced. By 2010, that number had reached almost 33%. More than a quarter of everyone getting divorced today is aged 50 or over, a number which also represents a dramatic shift from previous years.
Researchers did not seek to identify any specific cause for this dramatic rise in senior divorce, though there are some likely factors involved. Because divorce has become more common in recent decades, it may lead to an increase in divorce amongst older people. The likelihood that anyone divorces is significantly higher for those who have been previously divorced. About half of all the divorces involving people age 50 or over occurred with people who are in their second or subsequent marriages.
Also, some experts point to the aging baby boomer generation as one of the primary factors in this increase in divorce. Baby boomers have much less stigma associated with divorce than previous generations, and many baby boomer women are far more financially independent.
When looking to the future, planning should include the realities of life that not only include possible disability and eventual death, but other events over which we have more control such as terminating and creating marital relationships. Estate planning for blended families and for couples in nontraditional relationships is especially important for the default inheritance provisions built into most state laws do not generally address these more complex situations.