There is no prevailing reason why a marriage ends. That’s true whether the union lasted 30 days or more than 30 years. Yet most people are surprised when they learn about a longtime couple calling it quits. When you are one-half of that couple, you also probably thought you would never be in these shoes. But here you are. Older. Decades of marriage coming to a close. What’s next?
One thing is certain. If you are going through a divorce later in life, you are not alone.
Divorce Becoming More Common in Older Marriages
Divorce after decades of marriage has become so common that it has earned a nickname: gray divorce.
The divorce rate among Americans aged 50 and older doubled between 1990 and 2010 and stayed at that level, according to a study presented in The Journals of Gerontology. The news is even worse for those 65 and older. The Pew Research Center says the divorce rate has tripled for Baby Boomers.
A sampling of factors that drive a longtime couple to divorce include the following:
- Grown Apart. No one stays the same. Everyone evolves in some way. Sometimes the changes make a couple stronger, and sometimes it creates a wedge between them. Over time, priorities and philosophies might change. A couple whose values aligned when they married may find they are on separate pages as they get older.
- Empty Nest. Parents often focus most of their efforts as a couple on being good parents. Raising strong, healthy, well-adjusted children is always a good thing though some parents forget themselves in the process. When children grow up and are out of the house, parents may be hit by the knowledge they don’t know each other that well.
- Unresolved Issues. Disrespect, poor communication, anger issues, festering resentment, and other problems can accumulate over time. After years of not addressing troubles in a marriage, a couple may implode.
- Personal Fulfillment. At some point in their lives, everyone comes to the realization that time is flying by. Especially in the COVID era, more people have come to see their time as very precious. They reflect on long-held dreams they put on the backburner. They assess how happy they are. Some individuals decide that continuing the marriage doesn’t give them the fulfillment they crave.
Despite hurt, regret, and other feelings, remember that closing the door on your union does open a new door of possibilities. The divorce process can be the chance to put yourself first and enter your single life with hope.
Don’t Give Up Control
It doesn’t matter if you wanted the divorce or it was thrust upon you, you might relinquish some control to assuage feelings of guilt or regret. You might also think that the whole thing will be behind you faster if you let your spouse make most of the decisions. A divorce is an important time to exercise control. It’s not about being a bully. It’s about not rolling over. How your divorce proceeds greatly determines the quality of your life once you are single. Reflect on what you want in your new life. Your attorney can fight for your post-divorce world.
Remember Your Rights
Most couples who have been married for a long time have accumulated significant assets. You might not technically be classified as a high-net-worth individual (assets of $1 million or more) but you probably have a home, furnishings, jewelry, savings accounts, retirement accounts, military retirement benefits, inheritance, and other assets that will need to be divided. The distinction between what is yours, theirs, and both is usually murky in long-term marriages. A lawyer experienced in asset division can help you make sure that you will receive everything you are entitled to, including spousal support.
Honor Your Feelings
Even if you have zero interest in going back, you may still grieve for what could have been. It’s natural to feel the loss of not growing old together. Moments that would have been shared together, such as a child’s wedding, playing with grandchildren, or traveling cross-country, will now be experienced separately or with someone else by your side. It’s OK to think about how life isn’t going according to your original plan. Don’t stuff those feelings down. But also celebrate the new experiences that will come into your life that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.
Lean on Friends & Family
Your family and friends will be a critical support system during and after the divorce. They can be an ear when you need to talk to someone. Some may have deep empathy because they have been in your shoes. Friends will rally to your side but know that some friends will vanish. People defined you as part of a couple. When that changes, they aren’t sure what to think. They may also simply be unable to deal with grief and uncomfortable situations. Others might feel like they must pick sides. Friends, in their own ways, are affected by divorce in their friendship circle. Don’t be afraid to tell friends when you need a little support, but don’t take any perceived slight as personal.
Compassionate Legal Counsel for New York Divorces
At the Law Office of Dennis R. Ventrano, Jr., LLC, our experience can help spouses of all ages, including Baby Boomers in a long-term marriage. Older couples have specific challenges. Classifying assets and fighting for your portion of your spouse’s Social Security and pensions/retirement accounts are at the top of that list.
Let us help you create a positive new beginning, even in a highly contested divorce. We will guide you through negotiation or litigation with compassion and integrity.
If you are considering divorce or believe your spouse is, be better prepared by talking to one of our skilled attorneys. Scheduling a consultation is easy. You can call us at (845) 605-4330 or submit our online form on our website. We handle cases in the Dutchess County area and throughout New York.