In Illinois and across the country, an increasing number of Americans over the age of 50 are considering divorce. While the divorce rate for people of all ages has stabilized or even dropped since the mid-1990s, the opposite has been the case for people over 50. Unlike other demographic groups, Americans over 50 have doubled their rate of divorce since the 1990s, and approximately one-fourth of all divorces take place within the Baby Boomer generation.

The term “gray divorce” is used to describe the end of a marriage after the age of 50. It can apply equally to people who choose to divorce after decades of partnership and shared children or to people with shorter second or third marriages later in life. There are a number of reasons why the number and the rate of divorces later in life are on the rise. First, there are many more Americans over age 50 than there were in the past. In addition, life expectancy and health have continued to increase. Both men and women’s average life expectancy has increased approximately 10 years in the period between 1950 and 2016.

The fact that more people are leading longer, healthier lives may impel many to choose divorce to end an unhappy marriage. This can be especially true if abuse, infidelity or drug addiction are involved. Many experts have noted that gray divorces often involve these types of serious issues, especially as people over 50 may have reason to be concerned about the financial effects of divorce.

Divorce is not only an emotional event; it is also a practical and legal action that can involve complex financial decisions, especially for people who have accumulated a substantial marital estate over decades. A family law attorney may help spouses pursue a fair settlement that protects their rights in terms of spousal support, property division and other key issues.