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Why are more older Americans choosing divorce?

Most of us have certain images in our mind when it comes to divorcing couples: those who were married too soon, those dealing with infidelity and those who are simply no longer getting along. In fact, whether we realize it or not, most of us probably envision these divorcing couples as either being relatively young or middle aged at the oldest.

Recently released reports, however, show that we may need to change the way we think about divorce, as a greater number of older Americans are now divorcing and not for the reasons that you might think.

Indeed, statistics show that nearly one out of ten people going through divorce here in the U.S. are older than 64 and that nearly one out of four people going through divorce here in the U.S. are over 50. 

Even more fascinating, these numbers were found to buck the longstanding trend of divorce rates being lower among couples with advanced degrees, as both older high school graduates and older college graduates are now divorcing in equal numbers.

Why then are so many of these older couples deciding to call it quits?

According to experts, there are a variety of reasons behind this phenomenon, including:

  • Older couples are often on their second or third marriages, which are traditionally less stable than first marriages.
  • Older couples realize that once their children have finally left the nest that they have nothing more in common.
  • Older couples are no longer financially dependent on one another, as each spouse has their own earning power.
  • Older couples no long fear any social stigma attached to divorce.

"Marriage is now more individualized," said one expert. "For couples who aren't happy, divorce is an acceptable solution. Neither partner has to be 'at fault' -- instead, the couple could have simply grown apart."

Whatever the reasoning, it's important to note that things can become significantly more complicated from a financial perspective when older couples divorce. That's because they will typically have more valuable and more complex assets that will need to be divided, such as pensions and retirement accounts.

In these situations, people need to give serious consideration to sitting down with a skilled legal professional with extensive experience handing complex property division matters to discuss their options going forward.

Source: Time, "Why your grandparents are divorcing," Belinda Luscombe, Oct. 8, 2014

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