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Shades of Gray: When it’s Time to Walk Away

A couple years ago, National Public Radio (NPR) did a revealing report on a trend known as gray divorce. This is what people are calling divorces that happen late in life. As the report illustrated divorce rates among seniors have doubled in the last 20 years. Research between 1990 and 2010 shows that the same generation that changed all the rules in the 60s is now changing all the rules again. In 2010 alone, one out of four divorces involved a couple over 50 years of age.

Here in Florida, a state with a large number of retired seniors, this has become a clear departure from the past. Increasingly, seniors who previously would have been seeking estate-planning advice are now talking to their Florida divorce lawyers about marriage dissolution. While the numbers are clear, the reasons are not. To be sure, while researchers do not exactly know what has caused the surge of late life divorces, several theories exist.

Today’s Seniors are not Content Being Old

Some believe the gray divorce trend is due to changing social values. The generation that lived through the Vietnam War, Woodstock, and the sexual revolution were notably assertive and adventurous, certainly not the type to live life in quiet misery. Indeed, unlike their parents’ generation, these trendsetters are not content to simply retire and relax. This youthful mentality has led to the development and growth of a huge industry of beauty products aimed at keeping women looking young, pharmaceuticals designed to keep men virile, and increasing demands for cosmetic surgery.

With all this push to remain young forever, it is no wonder that many older adults today are finding it harder than ever to fall into their roles as seniors. They want to travel, date, and be young again. All of these can, at times, be inconsistent with society’s expectation that elderly people be coddled and cared for. This feeling of restlessness often leads one spouse to “want more” out of the relationship or out of life in general.

Today’s Seniors Got Married for Different Reasons

Another theory suggests that many older adults got married out of social obligations that did not exist later in this century. For instance, a lot of marriages were the consequence of pregnancy at a time before birth control was widely used. Under previous social norms, it was expected that couples would marry and raise children together. Therefore, a young man who got his girlfriend pregnant in the 1950s or 60s would be expected to “do the right thing,” whereas this is less commonly an expectation in today’s society.

Whether this is indeed the right decision or not is a question each person must answer for him or herself. But as the theory suggests, a generation of young adults was raised under this socially conservative expectation, which has since somewhat dissolved. Thus, some believe older adults are now just taking advantage of their newfound opportunity to free themselves from their reluctantly self-imposed marital bonds.

Gray Divorces are Completely Different and Still the Same

In many ways, divorces between seniors are just the same as divorces between younger adults. There are a few key differences that make these divorces more challenging. For instance, most younger divorcees have time to rebuild; seniors are facing retirement. Younger adults may divide property but still have the ability to work to earn new assets and accrue retirement funds. Seniors who split assets usually retire with a lower quality of life due to the divorce. Younger divorcees have a better chance of finding new companionship, whereas older divorcees may find themselves lonelier and having more difficulty making new friends, especially if most friends were shared.

For Floridians in the Orlando area who are now facing a late life divorce, it is important to speak with Florida lawyer Goodblatt · Leo who understands how a gray divorce can impact your life and give you all the options to help you move forward with confidence.

GOODBLATT · LEO is located and serves clients in and around Orlando, FL.

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