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Divorce rate for baby boomers up, many assets likely involved

A highly cited study out of Bowling Green State University in Ohio has many older married couples wondering if they will last until "death do us part." According to research conducted during that study, the rate of divorce for couples older than 50 has doubled in recent decades. This means that more are experiencing High Asset divorce, a process that can leave both spouses less wealthy and potentially bitter toward one another.

The older spouses are, the more likely that they have accumulated a considerable amount of shared property and wealth. This can cause major rifts during the property division phase of the divorce, potentially more so than any child support or custody disputes would because these spouses are often old enough to have children that have already left the nest.

Between 1990 and 2009 -- the time when the rate for divorce among those aged 50 and older doubled -- the rate of divorce for women age 65 and older tripled. In most situations, women will live longer than their spouses and own fewer retirement assets. This gives a late divorce the potential to be very disruptive to financial security.

According to an official with Schwab Advisor Services, women currently control $14 trillion of U.S. wealth, and some believe that this will double within the next three decades. Data shows that many wives with business-related degrees earn more than their husbands. This means that a divorce for some women, especially later in life, could be extremely costly. Seeking financial advice at some time before, during or after a divorce is often a wise decision, regardless of what gender you are.

Despite this, the stereotype of an older man leaving his wife for a younger woman is becoming antiquated. AARP recently found that women are twice as likely to initiate a divorce in marriages where spouses are between the ages of 40 and 79.

Source: AdvisorOne, "Madame Ex: Advising 'Gray Divorcees'," Olivia Mellan and Sherry Christie, Sept. 25, 2012

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