Sometimes life doesn't work out quite the way we imagined it. If you are a baby boomer who is contemplating divorce instead of entering your golden years with your soul mate beside you, don't feel like you're the only one.
For the past three decades, the rate of divorce for couples older than 50 has been steadily rising. It has doubled since 1990, and is even higher than that for senior citizens older than 65 - a demographic group that traditionally had lower than average divorce rates.
What is causing the uptick in later-in-life divorces?
While it would be simplistic to try to identify a sole factor, there are some common trends to consider. Women entered the workforce in increasing numbers in the '70s and '80s. They built careers and established financial independence. This gave them the luxury of options their mothers and grandmothers may not have had without familial wealth as a cushion.
Divorce used to carry a fairly big social stigma. From a religious standpoint, a divorce could ostracize you from your faith community. But now even Pope Francis has relaxed the Catholic Church's notoriously hard-line stance on divorce and even potential remarriage for observant Catholics.
Feminism empowered women and showed them that they didn't have to "settle" for a loveless marriage if they wanted more. Both sexes began to focus more on the self and their own needs during the '80s "me generation." Yet, some marriages that survived those years are foundering now.
Another factor is the rise of social media and online dating sites where it's easy to meet and reconnect with people with the click of a few keys. Divorced men and women don't have to endure the dread of endless blind dates arranged by well-meaning coworkers and friends. They are free to seek out those who interest and appeal to them.
Get your ducks in line
No matter how peeved you may be at your mate, before you file any papers, weigh the pros and cons. Make an appointment with a family law attorney who can explain the legalities of your situation. Find out where you stand financially - can you afford a divorce, or is it "cheaper to keep 'er?" Crunch the numbers and be realistic.
Remember that retirement pensions and 401(k)'s must be halved in a divorce unless both parties have their own and agree to each keep them. If only one spouse was the primary wage-earner with a pension, the retirement accounts may be split in a Qualified Domestic Relations Order.
Maintaining your privacy during a divorce
Older couples with substantial assets often choose mediation over litigation. Not only does it tend to better preserve the relationship, it allows the details of the divorce and property settlement to remain private between the husband and wife. Both parties get to walk away with their dignity intact and their heads held high, as no public mudslinging took place.
If you are stuck in an unhappy marriage, you have options no matter what your age is. Let 2017 be the year that you take steps toward happine ss, wherever it leads you.