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Age and divorce: This group's divorce rate continues to boom

For many years, we have read statistics telling us that the divorce rate in Minnesota and nationwide is high. We are reminded that about half of all marriages end in divorce on a seemingly regular basis. But recent reports suggest that the divorce rate has declined overall in recent years. Across the U.S., the divorce rate is actually closer to 40 percent. 

However, not all groups are seeing that same decline in divorces. In fact, sources suggest that there is one age group that is still hovering around that 50 percent divorce rate and is showing little or no signs of changing in the immediate future. And chances are, many of our Minnesota readers fall into this group.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, the rate of divorce among baby boomers has roughly doubled in recent years. This is an interesting development, as it may seem to defy societal expectations. It would seem that the longer a couple has been married, the more stable their marriage may be. This might make sense on some level, but the fact is that many couples ultimately decide to divorce after the age of 50 and there are some interesting theories as to why this may be.

Some sociologists say that baby boomers are a unique generation of people who have challenged expectations, pushed limits and created new definitions of relationships. Pepper Schwartz, a sociology professor, suggests that baby boomers are particularly skilled in "relationship innovation," so it would not be surprising that they are redefining divorce later in life.

There are also other factors that could play a role in the divorce rates among baby boomers. People are living longer, working longer and enjoying more financial independence than in previous decades. Once a couple's children are grown and moved out of the house, two parents may ultimately decide to go their separate ways in search of individual fulfillment.

But when and if an older couple decides to dissolve a marriage, there are still a number of challenges that they must consider. How will properties be divided? Is alimony an appropriate option? What will a divorce mean for their kids? These can be difficult issues to confront but when all is said and done, a divorce can mark the beginning of a new chapter in life and an opportunity to pursue the next cultural innovation.

Source: CNN, "Why are baby boomers so divorce-prone?" Pepper Schwartz, Dec. 9, 2013

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