Marriage is an important institution in the United States, unlike other parts of the globe. In fact, the United States has more marriages and more divorces than any other country in the world. The Centers for Disease Control reported that, as of 2022, the current divorce rate in the State of Maryland was 2.4 for every 1,000 inhabitants. This represents an increase from 2020 when the figure was 1.7 per 1,000.
“Gray” Divorces Among People 50 and Over
A new trend emerging across the country – and in Maryland – is that a higher percentage of older people are divorcing. Called “gray divorces,” the age 50 and older crowd represents about 25% of all divorces in Maryland. Not every person thinking about divorce has the same reason to want to do so, but the reduced stigma of divorce may be driving the higher divorce rate among unhappily married older couples. Also, parents who stayed together for the sake of their children but don’t feel they have anything in common anymore or who have lost the “spark” appear to be increasingly willing to follow through with a divorce once the children are out of the house.
The American Association of Retired People (“AARP”) started focusing on this phenomenon in the early 2000s and offered these statistics in a report entitled The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond:
Who initiates divorce in later life?
- 66% of female participants initiated divorce
- 41% of male participants initiated divorce
Participants’ age when divorced
- Age 40–49, 73% of participants divorced in their 40s
- Age 50–59, 22% of participants divorced in their 50s
- Age 60 and older, 4% of participants divorced in their 60s or later
“Gray Divorce” has many challenges that are uncommon among younger couples who divorce. For example, divorcing when you are closer to retirement age, or have already retired, forces the couple to focus on and perhaps divide retirement assets. If the couple has to split a retirement investment account nest egg of $250,000, for example, that will likely significantly impact the lifestyle choices of each partner. Similarly, if one party has a pension and the other does not, or if one party has a significantly higher pension than the other, issues of fairness and equity must be addressed.
If you decide to divorce your spouse, you will need to address many issues. These include:
- A Separation Agreement. Note, however, that if you don’t have minor children in Maryland you can proceed directly to a mutual consent divorce.
- Property Distribution. Property distribution proceeds pursuant to the principles of equitable distribution. Your separate assets are not subject to property distribution, nor are gifts or inheritances given to you alone.
- Debt Distribution. Some complex issues can arise around debt distribution if both parties are technically responsible for the debt, but the debt is only in the name of one party.
- Alimony. Alimony can also be a difficult issue in the case of gray divorces. Because of their ages, parties who have typically not worked outside the home may be unwilling or unable to do so now.
What happens to a pension? If the court wants to award part of a pension to the other spouse, this can be done in Maryland through a Qualified Domestics Relations Order.
In many cases, divorcing couples who are over 50 years old should consider divorce mediation. You don’t want to waste a lot of money on your divorce, and you don’t want to spend a lot of time on the divorce process either. The average length of a litigated divorce is 4 to 5 months, compared with up to two years for a litigated divorce. Similarly, the cost of a mediated divorce is under $10,000, compared to up to several hundreds of thousands of dollars for a litigated divorce.
Divorce As A Solution to Marital Problems?
Another trend in divorces is that children increasingly see divorce as a solution to their parent’s marital problems rather than as the shameful social stigma it was several decades ago. In a recent study, nearly 75% of children with divorced parents thought it was an answer to dealing with marital conflict.
Required Co-Parenting Classes for Divorcing Parents
In yet another divorce trend, while state laws vary greatly regarding divorce – from no-fault provisions to “cooling off” waiting periods – nearly all states now offer courses or seminars to divorcing couples, especially those with children, according to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
In many states, attendance is mandatory before a court will grant the divorce of parents in particular. In Maryland, all parents going through a divorce, separation or custody case with minor children must take and complete a 6-hour parent education class. Such classes may include meetings with a therapist, watching videos, or role-playing.
The movement now may be toward requiring such courses even earlier in the separation process in the hope that couples will avoid divorce altogether.
Women Are Initiating Divorce
Finally, here’s another interesting trend to note – nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. This is much higher than was the case 50 years ago. Part of this trend may be because women are much more financially self-sufficient than they were in the mid-1900s. Additionally, a lessening of the stigma of divorce may play a part in why women are more frequently initiating divorce these days.
Call Today to Schedule a Free Initial Consultation With A Bethesda Divorce Attorney
Are you planning to go through a Maryland divorce and have questions about the process, including alimony, child custody, child support, property distribution, and other issues? Bethesda divorce attorney Brandon Bernstein can help you. Call in confidence at 240-395-1418 or request an appointment online today.