Over the past twenty years, the divorce rate has decreased in the United States. That’s the good news. The bad news for those 50+ year old husbands and wives: the divorce rate for these baby boomers doubled from 1990 to 2010. And if you’re on your 2nd marriage AND in this age group, you’re 2.5 times more likely to divorce than your friends and neighbors who have been married to the same person for 30+ years. The issues the boomers face when they enter a gray divorce are very different from those of the couples with 2.3 young children. You would think the divorce cycle would be quicker and streamlined since there isn’t the custody component. This often isn’t the case.
I have a client who finally divorced on December 15th, 3 days after her 67th birthday. They separated in October of 2008. No, that’s not a typo. She had been separated for 6+ years and living apart from her estranged husband for that long. And for most of those 6 years, she was actively pursuing a divorce. Their divorce was not overly contentious. Neither of them changed attorneys. They continued to spend most holidays with their 3 adult children, their spouses and grandchildren. One of their sons got married in Colorado. The wife lost her mother. They often would celebrate their birthdays together since they were a day apart.
The wife had initiated the divorce. She felt like the separation had been a long time coming as her husband struggled with alcohol related issues and anger management. So what caused the delay? They had been married for 40+ years. There was very little divorce in their circle of friends, even their extended circle of friends. They had devoted time to making the marriage work. They didn’t want to get divorced. And they had assets to divide – equitably. That was the problem. They had their retirements to consider and how they were going to live the remaining years of their lives – apart.
So he stopped paying the bills. She went to an attorney. The wife filed for divorce and filed for spousal support. They appeared in court and support was ordered. And they began the dissolution of their 40+ year marriage and the co-mingling of their lives and finances. There was no plan, no thoughts to what it would really be like, where each of them would live, how they would divide their assets, how they would tell their kids, families, or friends.
A few years into the separation, the husband asked his wife if they could date after they got divorced. She looked at him in disbelief. Was he kidding after all they had been through? Did he really think she wanted to spend time with him? No, she didn’t think dating would be a good idea.
During their separation, they would sometimes meet on Sundays. Often it was to try to negotiate a settlement without attorneys being present but sometimes it was to watch a game together and cheer on their favorite team. Their 1970s love story ended one night back in October of 2008 when the wife hoped and prayed that he’d move out and he did. Not sure any of this was what the couple thought would happen. But after 6+ years of separation, they are now officially divorced. They haven’t gone out for their first post-divorce date yet. Maybe it will never happen. I don’t think they thought the divorce would happen either.