After decades together, why split?

Older couples are increasingly getting divorced. It may seem counterintuitive; after building a life together, why split after so many years? Yet divorce happens in every age group and across every demographic. Today, one in four divorces happen in the baby boomer generation. According to the Los Angeles Times, boomers are more likely to have already experienced divorce, and statistics show that second and third marriages are more likely to end in divorce.

One reason for so-called "gray divorce" is that time spent raising children and building careers may have left a couple with little time to spend on their marriage. After years of dealing with a busy schedule, a couple who now finds themselves as "empty nesters" may find that they are living with a relative stranger. Eli Karan, assistant professor at the University of Louisville's Marriage and Family Therapy program, told The Washington Post that a gradual withdrawal from each other is one of the primary predictors of baby boomer divorce.

Also relevant to "gray divorce" is society's changing view of separation and divorce. Older couples are not facing pressure to remain together despite problems in the marriage. Society has increasingly accepted divorce as a sometimes necessary fact of life. If one person believes he or she will be happier single, then why not pursue it? Living a fulfilling retirement has become an option for many Americans, and dating websites catering to baby boomers, along with increased accessibility to hobbies and other healthy lifestyle options can allow a person "start fresh" even when at or near retirement.

Finances are also a factor in many baby boomer divorces. Living in two separate households requires a certain amount of financial flexibility, one that young people in today's economy cannot always afford. Rather than attempt to raise children in separate households, younger couples may stay together for financial reasons - reasons that are not as great when children have places of their own to live and there has been time to establish a career.

Divorce is a difficult decision at any time. However, simply because a couple has been together for a long time does not mean divorce is out of the question. Older couples who have tried marriage counseling and other means of saving their marriage may realize that divorce is simply the better option. In addition, a greater maturity can also make the divorce process less expensive and contentious. Parents of adult children can divorce without having to establish primary custody, for example. A greater maturity can also make it easier to view divorce as a practical step meant to increase the happiness of both parties to the marriage.

People contemplating divorce should speak with an experienced family law attorney to discuss their legal options and if divorce is right for them.