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Gray Divorce: Older Couples In North Carolina Look For Change

As couples grow older and live longer, it seems that some realize that they don’t want to be together anymore and the trend, referred to as ‘gray divorce’, is becoming more common in Lincoln County. There appear to be many factors that play into an older couple’s decision to divorce after a lengthy marriage. Divorce later in life comes with different challenges than the divorce of a younger couple.

North Carolina’s Divorce Rate

According to WRAL, statistics from the Census Bureau rated North Carolina 19th in the nation for divorce; out of every 1,000 marriages, 3.8 couples divorced in 2009. The national rate is 3.4 per 1,000 marriages. In order to reduce that number lawmakers passed a one year waiting period and this year are attempting to extend that waiting period to two years. The bill’s sponsor states that North Carolina laws have allowed couples to divorce too easily. It is uncertain whether the bill will be passed by the legislature.

The Gray Divorce Revolution

In 2012, The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green University released a study called “The Gray Divorce Revolution” which studied the divorce rate of adults, aged 50 and older during the period of 1990 and 2009. The study made the following observations:

  • The divorce rate for older couples doubled during the study’s period
  • The divorce rate for people in a second or third marriage is higher than first marriages
  • More than 600,000 older people divorced in 2009 alone
  • The U.S. has the highest divorce rate in the world at 45 percent
  • The divorce trend in older couples is expected to grow over the next 20 years

The study also points out that not a great deal of attention has been put on older couples who divorce, and therefore it may be difficult to identify the factors that are causing this trend. Some factors are thought to be children who have left to live on their own, women who have careers now and are no longer financially dependent on their husbands and the fact that people are simply living longer, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Special Challenges For Older Couples

One challenge for divorcing older couples is retirement, according to USA Today. Instead of one retirement, the couple’s savings and retirement plan must now pay for two and this can lead to drastic changes where people may have to put off their retirement date or retire but limit their planned retirement lifestyle. If a spouse has been dependent on the other and has no ability to support themselves, either through lack of skills or disability, then that can put a strain on finances.

One way that people can financially survive is by cutting down on how they spend their money. For example, a divorced parent should explain to their adult children that they can’t help pay for a wedding or college. Another way is to downsize to a smaller home and eliminate expensive retirement trips or travel expenses. If you have decided to divorce, you should meet with an attorney to make sure that your rights are protected and that you receive the financial support you need through divorce and beyond.