Below is a link to an article that appeared in the media today on the rate of "gray divorces," that is, divorces by people age 50 and over. According to the latest statistics, the divorce rate has doubled in the over-50 group since the 1990s.

Link to 2017 article:

Sociologists have been tracking the fact that, with the Baby Boomers starting to retire, the “gray divorce rate” is rising. Retirement is a big life transition, it can lead to marital strains, and so sociologists are looking at why some “gray” couples stay married while others divorce.

Below is a link to a similar article from 2015. The 2015 article highlights the fact that women initiate the majority of "gray divorces" and suggests that the increased independence of women today may be driving much of the increase in the gray divorce rate.

Link to 2015 article:

Finally, below is a link to an article from 2013 suggesting one possible alternative to divorce for retired couples, a device called "parallel play." If a retired husband and wife want different things out of life, the article suggests that they could remain married but lead separate lives by day, perhaps even living in different residences. The article suggests that "parallel play" might be healthier overall than living in retirement joined at the hip and doing everything together.

Link to 2013 article:

As for me personally, I've been through a "gray divorce" so I'm attuned to the issue and I like to check out occasional articles on the subject as I run across them. But I have no particular point in posting this discussion, other than the fact that it pertains to the over-50 crowd. 

In other words, I'm just posting the discussion as an FYI thing. Something for the over-50 crowd to be aware of, for when retirement hits.

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Thanks for posting the links Charles.  I'm also a "victim" of "gray divorce" as I was divorced last year at 55.  And it definitely affected my retirement.  I had to cash in my IRA in order to pay for going through bankruptcy and then my ex got 1/2 of the remaining retirement funds.  So, she has more retirement dollars than I do now! 

Thanks for posting the links Charles.

No problem, Mark. I think the info probably helps "victims" of gray divorce to learn that that they're not alone in what has happened to them, in other words, that gray divorce is an ongoing "thing" happening to lots of other Baby Boomers as well.

I'm also a "victim" of "gray divorce" as I was divorced last year at 55. And it definitely affected my retirement.  I had to cash in my IRA in order to pay for going through bankruptcy and then my ex got 1/2 of the remaining retirement funds.  So, she has more retirement dollars than I do now!

Sorry to hear about the hard financial hit that you took. 

With a lot of the married couples in the Baby Boomer generation, the husband is the main or sole wage-earner. And if the couple has been married for the entire time the man was working, the ex-wife may be in for quite a big pay-out. Property division laws vary from state to state, but a 50-50 split of assets is the norm for many states. In such cases, the ex gets 50% of the house, the savings, the pension/retirement funds, and so on. Then there's alimony on top of all that. Then the sole wage earner is often stuck with the bills for legal fees for both parties, taxes, penalties, costs of selling the home, etc.

Perhaps the one saving grace in a "gray divorce" is that there usually aren't any child support payments. Child support payments can become the final nail in the financial coffin for main/sole wage-earners in the case of younger couples.

As for me, I initiated the divorce from my ex. I told my ex that there should be plenty of money to go around if we did an amicable divorce and kept costs down. My ex initially agreed, but then she kept dragging her heels every step of the way. Ultimately the process turned into a hostile divorce lasting two years, with me paying for all the lawyers and legal costs on both sides as well as a generous living allowance for my ex for those two years. And that was even before we got to splitting the assets and all the rest of the payments. I warned my ex that the hostile divorce procedure was just burning up money that we both needed for retirement, but I guess she was feeling vindictive and wanted to prove a point. So I shrugged my shoulders and kept writing big checks for legal fees.

Anyway, that was a few years back, and I've moved on since then and don't have any complaints or regrets. I don't feel any ill-will toward my ex. But I have to say: It certainly did hurt at the time to see our retirement funds get "weaponized" and end up in the pockets of the lawyers and the courts!

My wife and I have been living the "parallel play" option for almost 10 years now, including living separately, since I was in my mid-50s. I initiated the separation, and it has been the best of both worlds. Other than the cost of supporting two households (which I'm not implying is insignificant), the financial hit has been much less than it would have been with a real divorce. And, given that neither of us has any intention to marry again, this arrangement works out very well. We're infinitely happier than we were for the dozen or so years preceding it.

And the financial benefits of doing it this way are compelling. Health insurance (she got to stay on mine). No lawyers to pay. And, if one of us should need more than half of our savings for some emergency - like a medical condition - it's all still "ours".

For this to work, both parties have to be pretty level-headed and civilized. I can fairly say that my wife and I can trust one another with our lives. (I hope those don't turn out to be famous last words...). We try to be there for one another, for little things as well as big ones. But living together was awful.

Anyway - my experience is that this is not the end of the world. Far from it.

My wife and I had a crisis last summer that could have leaded to divorce, but we decided to work things out and ended up with a stronger marriage than ever, but the irony is it came out of a feeling of empowerment on both sides that either of us can walk any time if one of us feels like it is no longer working.

My wife and I were good friends way before getting married, which many couples were not, and with the kids slowly becoming less dependant we still see that is the case.

As for parallel play, I've seen couples do that their entire marriage; nothing new. 

Financially, it makes sense to divorce even if a couple stays together for Medicaid reasons; if one gets very sick it's easier to preserve assets.

I'm glad you and your wife were able to work things out. That's not true for everyone.

To your other point, this isn't a thing to argue about - everyone has to find the solution that works for them. But I will point out that your advice about divorcing is questionable: What you're saying is that it's better to have a 100% chance of losing half of everything + (according to the stories above) substantially more in lawyer's fees once things get ugly) by divorcing pre-emptively, than it is to not get divorced and have some (hopefully much less than 50% chance) of getting wiped out, some day, if one of you should get really sick, while preserving a 100% chance of having at least one of you (the one who lives longer) get to keep everything that's left at that point?? That doesn't make a lot of sense to me...

I thought this through pretty thoroughly, and it's definitely cheaper to stay married, even if you're living separately.

EDIT: I do see what you're saying about staying together and getting divorced for medicaid reasons. Espcaielly since most company health plans cover domestic partnerships now. The question is, if you've been domestic partners legally for some time, if Medicaid would still consider you single.

Yes, I fully agree on all points, every couple has to find what works for them. And I did mean divorcing for Medicaid reasons; I've seen my parent's generation go through hell as one spouse's illness brought great financial suffering to the other partner, and Medicaid does not make it easy. I don't know about domestic partners though, and it's something to research or talk to an eldercare lawyer.


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