While the divorce rate is declining for the general population, divorce among people aged 50 and over continues to rise; between 1990 and 2010, the rate actually doubled. A recent Next Avenue article, “Why Couples Divorce After Decades of Marriage” (July 2016), explored not only the issues that can lead to late-in-life or “gray” divorces, but also suggested ways to help keep your marriage divorce-proof.


Divorce happens later in life for many of the same reasons as for younger people: Couples grow apart, or can’t get past disagreements about money or intimacy issues. It’s important to make an effort to keep things fresh, especially if you’ve been together for decades. Some experts advise couples to consciously put the relationship first and be available for emotional support. Take care of yourself in order to remain both healthy and attractive to your partner. Make an active decision to try new things together. Of course, communication and willingness to compromise are essential.


Ending a marriage can be financially disastrous, but especially for those over 50, as detailed in a recent Divorce Magazine article, “Divorcing After 50? Make Finances Your Top Priority” (June 2016). Couples in this age group have likely amassed significant assets, making professional assistance with financial decisions that much more important. Women in this age group are especially vulnerable:


Not only have they had to contend with the gender pay gap during their careers, but many have taken time away from work to raise children—27% of gray divorced women live in poverty, as compared to 11% of gray divorced men.1


Ideally, you should be well acquainted with both you and your spouse’s financial standing no matter the state of the marriage, but be sure to take these steps before either party files for divorce:

  • Inventory your assets
  • Gather documents. You’ll need estate-planning documents, including wills, powers of attorney and trusts. And don’t forget the past five years’ tax returns and payroll information.


Working with a financial advisor and an attorney who specialize in divorce is essential to helping you emerge from the experience in the best possible position. Having your finances in order will give you one less worry, and will help make it easier to move on to the next phase of your life.


1 Forbes, “Gray Divorce: A Financial Double Whammy For Women,” July 2016 http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2016/07/13/gray-divorce-a-financial-double-whammy-for-women/#699ec82670fc


This material is for informational purposes only and the statements made above represent TIAA's interpretation of applicable law. It is presented with the understanding that TIAA (or its affiliates, distributors, employees, representatives and/or insurance agents) is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advice.