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Divorce over 50 -- Division of marital property more complex

Although statistics suggest that the rate of divorce may be stabilizing across the US, one demographic is experiencing growing divorce rates. It appears that Americans aged 50 and older in Massachusetts and elsewhere are turning to divorce more now than ever before.

A professor at a leading university asserts that in 1990, less than one out of every ten people who filed for divorce were age 50 or older; today, that number has skyrocketed to one in four. Although the reasons for filing for divorce at a later age may differ for each individual, older adults who are ending their marriages share some commonalities. One is a more complex division of marital property, as each partner may have accumulated a diverse set of assets over the course of their lives.

Sociologists believe that there are many factors that lead older Americans to seek divorce. Many have stayed in lackluster marriages as their children grew up, believing that prolonging the split would be easier on their children. Another factor could be a new approach on aging, suggesting that 50 may in fact be the new 30. One researcher at East Longmeadow points out that Americans aged 50 and older are much more active than in previous generations.

Additionally, more women are now engaged within the workforce, and are no longer financially dependent upon their husbands for financial stability. The American Association of Retired Persons supports this theory, pointing out that women over the age 50 initiate divorce more often than men. Where it was once believed that people approaching retirement age disinterested in romantic entanglements, seniors today enjoy a wider range of dating opportunities as well as lessened social stigma attached to dating after 50.

Couples who decide to split later in life confront a range of issues far different from their counterparts in their 20s or 30s. Social Security benefits, retirement accounts, assets such as investments or real estate, all need to be carefully considered throughout the divorce process.

Older adults in Massachusetts need to take into consideration how the division of marital property will affect their retirement plans as well as their future stability. Those who study divorce statistics and trends expect the number of older adults filing for divorce to continue to rise. In fact, over the next 20 years, it is predicted that there may be a 25 percent increase in divorce filings among Americans who are more 50 years old.

Source: wwlp.com, "Divorce rates over age 50," Nicole Nalepa, July 9, 2012

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