The recent announcement of a divorce by Bill and Melinda Gates after 27 years of marriage provides some insight as the gray divorce trend continues in San Diego and across the US. “Gray divorce” is a term which applies to a divorce when both parties are over the age of 50. In most cases, the underlying marriage has lasted for more than 20 years. Why has the number of gray divorces more than doubled since the 1990’s?
When a couple has been married for longer than 10 years they have come to know their spouse well. There are things they admire about their spouse, and things upon which they entirely disagree. After 10 years of marriage you know one another’s routines, true beliefs, the nature of the family they’ve come from and how each handles both a challenge and a success. You know your spouse at their best and at their worst.
When a relationship isn’t working the magnitude of the impact of that reality generally takes one of two paths:
- Each party finds a way to focus on all of the positives, work through areas of disagreement or concern and find a mutually agreeable rhythm for their lives, or
- The disappointment in the issues of the relationship begins to magnify in greater and greater proportion as time passes ultimately leading to the decision to bring the relationship to an end.
The gray divorce trend continues in San Diego and across the US as Americans 50 and over decide it is time for their marriages to come to an end. Here in California, this is generally legally presumed to be due to irreconcilable differences. In these these cases there are often substantial assets, a business interest or professional practice, investments, retirement accounts and other community property. The issue of spousal support is often one of the most challenging to amicably resolve in a gray divorce.
So why would a couple decide to get a divorce after 10, 20 or 30 years of marriage? They probably realized the deficiencies in their partnership long ago. How is it that couples such as Bill and Melinda Gates and the “Mr. & Mrs. Jones” of all backgrounds and socio-economic status come to the decision to divorce?
In the past, the majority of spouses who weren’t happy in their relationship would choose to remain in the marriage for “the sake of the children,” or family, or their religion or because of the entirety of their social and familial circles and core beliefs.
The couple haven’t simply “grown apart.” The gray divorce trend continues in San Diego and across the US because one or both of the parties have decided that life is precious and they realize there are many years yet to come and chapters to be written. The parties often realize the marriage isn’t only unsustainable for themselves, but that it isn’t working for their spouse either. In some cases the arguments have ended long ago and while the relationship is quiet it is also lacking in intimacy, connection and mutual growth and fulfillment.
In others, the children are raised and there simply comes a point in time where the pain of remaining in the relationship exceeds the perception of the “cost” (in emotional and/or financial terms) of ending it.
The social taboos surrounding divorce in the 20th century are long gone. More and more Americans seek counseling and therapy than in the 80’s and 90’s. They are able to openly discuss what used to be taboo from a social and often religious perspective at the time they were married: the relationship simply isn’t working and it is time to consider parting ways.
The ages of 50 and 60 are significant points in the lives of most people. These are dates for looking back and looking forward, and for taking stock of the portion of life which has passed and the substantial amount of time one hopes is yet to come. Some are happy with their life story, traditions, experiences, intimacy and partnership and look forward to building upon that in new and genuinely exciting ways.
For others, they realize it is time to accept the reality of their relationship. Life is precious and each decade in life is an opportunity for learning, growth, and when necessary, change. The gray divorce trend continues in San Diego and across the US as spouses make the individual or joint decision to rediscover themselves and to redefine their experiences in life now and in the years to come.
If you are considering the end of a marriage it is important to learn as much as possible about the potential road ahead. Gray divorce requires substantial planning, preparation and strategy. You need the experienced, proven and sound advice and counsel of the Certified Family Law Specialists at Burke & Domercq.