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Late-life divorce: What has caused the increased rate?

Long ago, if your marriage was in trouble, you may have confided in a close family member or friend. On the other hand, chances are, especially if children were involved, you would simply keep your problems to yourself and do your best to endure the situation, hoping things would eventually improve between you and your spouse. Nowadays, rather than stay in an unhappy marriage, many Illinois spouses are more comfortable and confident seeking divorce.  

Numerous factors have prompted an increased rate of divorce for those who are age 50 or over. Ending a marriage late in life is colloquially known as "gray divorce," and the number of petitions older spouses have filed in court has reportedly doubled in the past 20 years. If you're among those who will seek a late-life divorce in 2019 or beyond, you may want to talk to someone you trust who has already navigated the process because gray divorce often presents challenges that younger couples don't necessarily encounter.  

Key factors in late-life divorce 

You've likely experienced a time or two when you and your friends got together for social time and wound up comparing notes on marriage. Those who are age 50 or beyond often cite the following issues as causal factors that prompted them to file for divorce:  

  • Disputes regarding finances: Fighting over money appears to be one of the greatest causal factors of gray divorce. When spouses disagree about when to retire or how much money to spend versus save, some decide it would be better to go their separate ways than live in a constant state of contention. 
  • Unresolved anger regarding children: Parents don't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to disciplining and raising children. Some older spouses say they were simply unable to let go of the anger that had built up in them through the years when their philosophies on parenting were at constant odds with their spouses. 
  • Infidelity: Whether a spouse has an affair early in marriage or late in life, perhaps even after decades of marriage, it is highly unlikely that infidelity can occur without doing serious collateral damage to a relationship. Late-life divorce often occurs because of cheating. 
  • Mental illness: Surprisingly, many baby boomers say their decisions to divorce connected closely with their spouses' mental illnesses. Whether such illness involves substance abuse, depression or uncontrolled anger issues, many spouses determine late in life that they are simply unable to withstand the stress associated with such situations. 

If you've been married 30 or more years, you've no doubt shared good and bad times with your spouse. It is an intensely personal and often emotionally difficult decision to make to file for divorce after being with the same spouse for so long. Such decisions often have significant impacts on a person's assets, retirement benefits, tax refunds or business profits. It's always a good idea to research state laws ahead of time to avoid negative surprises in court. 

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