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Gray divorce: trend is national, but decisions are individual

Statistics never tell the full story. The increase in divorce after 50, for example, is clearly reflected in national statistics. In simple terms, the divorce rate for people in that demographic group has doubled in the last twenty years.

More and more often, then, divorce in Georgia and across the country, involves people who are age 50 or older. In 1990, only about ten percent of divorces were among people that age. Now, it's about twenty-five percent. It's become so common there is even a shorthand term for it: gray divorce.

The gray divorce trend, however, is made up of individual cases, each with its own unique opportunities and challenges. Money issues may be a significant factor for one couple but not for another. The same is true of sexual incompatibility, the effect of children leaving home, and other factors that affect whether longtime marriages continue - or end in divorce.

Researchers who study after-50 divorce note that the causal factors abound in irony. When children leave home, for example, the impact could be to reinvigorate the marriage. But it could also make one or both partners realize that the marriage has run its course and, in emotional terms, become an empty shell.

Another factor in the increase in divorce after 50 is that the divorce rate rises for remarriages. Remarried couples may face complications with stepchildren. Difficult decisions about healthcare or finances can also be involved. Plus, people who have already been divorced know better than anyone that life goes on when a marriage ends.

Ultimately, interpreting the trend toward more gray divorce therefore becomes very personal. Statistics point toward a broad social trend, but it's up to each of us to make decisions for our own lives based on our own goals and values.

Source: "Post-50 divorce rate doubled in 20 years," Chicago Tribune, Leslie Mann, 2-27-13

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