Divorce rates across the board have slowly started trending downward. However, trends reveal an increasing rate for those over the age of 50. As recently as 1990, only 2.8% of people over 50 were divorced. Today, that number has reached 15%, with roughly a quarter of separations coming from the older generation. With more people falling in that age range, it is important to understand the trends and how they may apply to the Grand Rapids area.
Understanding the Numbers
There are a couple key reasons that help explain this shift. Life expectancy has increased significantly in recent history, with the healthiest people now living an average of ten years longer. Divorce, now more socially acceptable, becomes a viable option for people looking to leave a bad marriage with a lot of life ahead of them.
Those that fall over the age of 50 lived through the first divorce boom of the 1970s and early 80s. Many may have had a first divorce during that time and have since remarried. Related statistics show second or third marriages are 2.5 times more likely to end in separation. These two factors provide crucial insight into trends that researchers and divorce attorneys are seeing.
West Michigan Impact
Researchers are only recently acknowledging the trend of “gray divorce.” Census data for the Grand Rapids area shows a growing percentage of older residents. In 2010, between 11 and 12 percent of Kent and Ottawa County residents were 65 or older. 2015 estimates place that number between 12.5 and 13.6 percent. Population numbers have increased overall in the area, creating a growing number of people susceptible to gray divorce.
All divorce attorneys know that there are a multitude of factors that can complicate any case. However, older couples often encounter unique disadvantages. Issues arise when considering the division of a lifetime of combined assets. For those that are retired or living on fixed income, finances play an even more critical role.
When it comes to the extended families of those seeking divorce, many relationships can be affected. The ripples of separation impact children, grandchildren, and a well-established social circle. Across the board, the new dynamic of parent and grandparent relationships causes a unique strain for all involved.
Bucking the Trend
There are also many reasons to explain why divorce rates for the younger generation are not following the same trends. People tend to be waiting longer to get married, often doing so after achieving stability in life. When both parties are more educated and financially comfortable, marriages are less likely to end in divorce. As recently as 20 years ago, those factors were viewed as less important before couples got married.
According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the gray divorce trend could be even more apparent and impactful in the next 15 years. As the younger generation reaches middle age, divorces are projected to increase by 10,000. Older adults, including the growing population in the Grand Rapids area, could see an increase of 80,000.
Rivers, C. and Barnett, R. (2016, October 8). Why Your Grandparents Are Finally Calling It Quits. Retrieved on October 11, 2016, from http://www.freep.com/story/life/family/2016/10/08/divorce-grandparents-rates-seniors/91557114/
Hobson, J. (2016, September 23). Divorce Is Down Among Younger People, Up Among Baby Boomers. Retrieved on October 11, 2016 from http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2016/09/23/us-divorce-trend