Divorce rates in California and around the country have remained fairly stable in recent decades after surging in the 1970s, but the overall trend masks a sharp rise in divorces involving older couples. Since 1990, divorces involving people over the age of 50 have more than doubled, which is worrying because the financial and emotional consequences of what is referred to as gray divorce are often severe.
The ending of a marriage usually involves going through a difficult psychological adjustment, but the emotional toll can be particularly heavy on people who have been married for decades and must now face life alone. After studying health and retirement data gathered between 1998 and 2014, researchers from Bowling Green University discovered that people over the age of 50 who divorce are more likely to struggle with clinical depression than spouses who become widowed.
However, it is the financial fallout of a gray divorce that is causing the most concern. The results of the Bowling Green University study suggest that household wealth falls by as much as 50% when older people divorce, and women tend to be particularly hard hit. The researchers say this kind of financial setback is often especially severe because older people do not have enough time to rebuild their retirement savings and may find it difficult to reenter the workforce after spending decades caring for a home and raising a family.
Older people who wish to avoid a life of financial struggle should prepare thoroughly before going into property division and alimony negotiations. Attorneys with family law experience may ask financial experts and retirement planners to help their older clients develop a post-divorce strategy that allows them to live comfortably and within their means.