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What are the specific challenges of divorce for people over 50?

While the divorce rate in America has generally declined over the past two decades, a recent study indicates that for one group of Americans -- those over the age of 50 -- the divorce rate has actually doubled. Readers in Missouri will be interested to hear of a recent study called "The Gray Divorce Revolution," which shows that of all the people who divorced in 2009, one in four was 50 or older.

The statistics appear in a paper written by two sociologists who refer to the divorce trend among older Americans as the gray divorce revolution. These divorcing couples have not only accumulated more years than many younger people who get divorced; spouses over 50 are also more likely to have accumulated significant monetary assets. This factor and others can present specific kinds of challenges for divorcing couples in Missouri and throughout the country.

The study also analyzes why the rate of divorce is higher for people who are 50 or older. According to Susan Brown, who is a co-author of the paper, about half of the people over 50 who got divorced in 2009 were in remarriages. Couples in remarriages, according to Brown, are more likely to divorce than people in a first marriage.

Additionally, Brown says that older adults are usually less likely to stay in what she terms "empty-shell marriages," which are marriages that may not be exactly awful but also not satisfying for the married individuals.

People who are 50 or older also experience certain life changes that younger married couples haven't. For instance, retirement or an empty nest may be a good reason for older people to reflect on whether they want to remain in a marriage with their spouse for the rest of their lives.

As St. Charles readers know, people change. And when those changes are no longer conducive to the continuation of a marriage, divorce is often necessary for the happiness of the individuals involved. Achieving an equitable separation may require some careful negotiations, but the work that goes into a divorce can still produce a brighter future for all parties involved.

Source: NPR, "'Gray Divorce': Over 50, And Splitting Up," March 8, 2012

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