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Baby Boomers: The Phenomenon of Grey Divorce

Baby boomers are divorcing at a higher rate than are couples in other age brackets, often from long-term marriages after the kids leave home. Some are ending their second marriages. Interestingly, many more women than men of this age are initiating divorces. This uptick in “grey divorces” as a cultural phenomenon seems tied to certain attributes of this generation of Americans.

The “baby-boomer” generation consists of people born from approximately 1946 to 1964 – over 76 million of them, roughly one-quarter of the U.S. population. In their late 40s to 60s now, they are known for questioning authority and tradition, and for their focus on self-fulfillment and self-expression.

Of course, variations exist among baby boomers’ values and how those values influence the decision to divorce, but boomers were each shaped by the same historical events, people and trends of their time:

  • The Vietnam War
  • The civil rights’ movement
  • The Cold War
  • President John Kennedy
  • Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Relative prosperity
  • The women’s movement
  • The counterculture
  • Rock and roll
  • The sexual revolution
  • Watergate and President Richard Nixon
  • The growth of the suburbs
  • Activism

Particular reasons for baby-boomer divorces come up in a review of the literature on the subject:

  • Infidelity
  • Lack of communication
  • Loss of intimacy and romance
  • Substance abuse
  • Financial stability
  • Social acceptance of divorce
  • Healthier lifestyles; longer lives
  • Changing gender roles
  • Female independence (personal and financial)
  • Empty-nest syndrome
  • Diminished worry about children
  • Evolution in the fairness of state property-division laws in divorce
  • Midlife crisis
  • Availability of no-fault divorce

Sound legal advice is crucial for a divorcing boomer. Retirement is approaching or already here and ongoing financial security is a major concern in light of the unique needs of advanced years. A knowledgeable family law attorney, especially one with particular experience in grey divorce, can provide information and advocacy to an older divorcing husband or wife concerning spousal maintenance, retirement accounts and division of marital assets. After divorce, legal advice will be needed for revising an estate plan to take into account the change in family structure.