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Older Americans seeking divorce more

Pennsylvania residents may be interested to know that divorce is increasingly changing. People no longer feel pressured to stay in unhappy marriages, and divorce has lost much of the stigma that it once had. Yet even though the overall divorce rate appears to be stabilizing, the number of older Americans seeking divorce has gone up.

In 1970, just 13 percent of adults between the ages of 46 and 64 were either divorced, separated or had never married to begin with. The comparable figure for 2010 is about a third. Moreover, in just the past 20 years, the divorce rate amongst this age group has increased by 50 percent.

There may be several reasons behind the numbers beyond just changing social mores. For one, people are living longer, meaning that a couple that has already spent 20 years together in an unhappy marriage could face yet another 20 or even 30 years if they do not seek a divorce. Also, it is more common these days for both spouses to work. That leads to a greater feeling of economic freedom, and allows one the comfort of knowing that he or she will be able to provide for him or herself after a divorce.

However, whatever the reason for the change, divorce at an older age poses unique challenges in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Older couples tend to have more assets that they own jointly, and they also tend to have children who may have their own ideas about any child custody arrangement. But difficult though these problems may be, they are resolvable either through a divorce mediation or in a court proceeding.

Source: New York Times, "More Americans Rejecting Marriage in 50s and Beyond," Rachel L. Swarns, March 1, 2012

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