Though overall divorce rates are dropping, the number annulments and divorces in Virginia for ages 55 to 64 have doubled from 20 years ago, according to Bowling Green State University. The divorce rate for this older age group is now “triple that of their parents,” according to the New York State Bar Association Journal.
“Gray divorce” is the term researchers and others are using to refer to this trend of people over the age of fifty who are divorcing. Gray divorce, according to the AARP, happens for a number of reasons, and affects all sorts of marriages. Marriage researches tend to define a marriage in one of three categories: institutional compassionate and individualized. While all marriages have some qualities from each type of marriage, most fall more directly under one descriptor
Institutional marriage was a union based primarily on economic stability – a combined household is cheaper and more stable than two separate households. Institutional marriages tend to swell during times of scarcity, such as the Depression and directly after World War 1.
Compassionate marriage developed post-World War 11, the sort of classic 1950s marriage dynamic where the man was the provider and the woman was the homemaker.
Individualized marriage is the current model for marriage in the U.S., focused on individual needs of each partner. If one partner is unhappy and individual needs are not met, this dynamic is unsustainable in the long term.
Additionally, there are a number of reasons while a couple will decide to end any one of these types of marriages, including “empty nest” and infidelity. Infidelity in the over-50 divorce group was reported to the AARP as one of the top three reasons to split, and affected just over 25 percent of the couples, roughly the same as in the general population.
With an older divorcing couple, the issues to resolve tend to not include custody issues, as any children from the marriage have grown to adulthood. Older couples focus more on the distribution of property, retirement accounts, divvying up health insurance, and settling on alimony.