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Gray divorces have doubled since 1990, study says

Pennsylvania residents may be surprised to learn that divorces involving couples over the age of 50 – which are also referred to as ‘gray divorces” – have increased significantly in the United States, according to one study. Although the percentage of couples getting divorced has declined on the whole, the rate of gray divorce doubled from 1990 to 2010.

One therapist says that, while divorcing couples often split up during the first seven years of marriage, she sees another spike in divorce rates after couples have been together at least 20 years. She states that the most common reason for separating after decades together is emotional distance.

Unhappy couples also have more motivation to separate than couples of older generations. For one, people are living longer, and they may decide they do not want to spend 20 or 30 years of retirement in a disappointing marriage. Individuals may also grow more aware of an emotional disconnect from their partners after their children have moved out or after one of the spouses has retired.

Today, it is easier for couples to part ways than it would have been in our grandparents’ or even our parents’ generation, when divorce had a more negative connotation. Women may also have an easier time walking away from behaviors that used to be tolerated, such as adultery.

In Pennsylvania divorces, marital property is divided ‘equitably” (i.e., fairly) between spouses; it is not split 50-50, like in community property states. It can be a challenge to determine how to equitably divide assets such as 401(k)s or other retirement assets, particularly if the couple is over the age of 50 and has a larger amount of assets to their names. A Pennsylvania family law attorney might help individuals navigate the divorce process.

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