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Divorce is prevalent for those who are age 55 and older

When you think back to your wedding day, no doubt a festive mood, excitement and nervousness filled the atmosphere. You had no reason to expect that your marriage would not last a lifetime. However, time has a way of changing things, especially marriages. The divorce rate in Arizona and throughout the country has slightly declined in recent years. However, in the past 20 years, it has significantly increased for people who are age 55 and beyond.

If you're in this age group, you might relate to one or more of the issues older spouses often cite as factors leading to their decisions to divorce. Filing for divorce after 30, 40 or more years of marriage isn't easy. It is often emotionally and financially difficult. No matter what issues may prompt your decision to file for divorce, making sure you have a strong support network in place from the start can help you cope and move on in life. 

Infidelity is not restricted to younger spouses

Just because you and your spouse are older now, it doesn't necessarily mean your relationship is foolproof against infidelity. In fact, many older spouses say this was a primary issue in their decisions to leave their partners. When a spouse spends a lot of time away from home, perhaps serving on active duty in the military or claiming to have extra work to do at the office, it can place a heavy burden on a marriage. 

You might be one of many older spouses who have made the unfortunate discovery that your spouse has been engaged in an extramarital affair. It is one of the most common causes of gray divorce, a term that refers to filing for divorce at age 55 or older.

Living longer sometimes means spouses start to drift apart

The average person lives a lot longer nowadays than was typical in past eras. This means you and your spouse may spend an additional 20 or more years together than the average couple 100 years ago would have done. Perhaps, you and your spouse have drifted apart in your relationship. There's no one issue that is prompting you to file for divorce, but you simply feel that you no longer have anything in common and your relationship lacks companionship.

Dealing with addiction or chronic illness can take a toll on a marriage

If you or your spouse have a substance abuse problem or have received a chronic illness diagnosis, it may have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back in your relationship. Many marriages cannot withstand the stress of such issues. 

You may relate to other spouses who say they knew their partners had problems with alcohol or drugs, but they tried to help them and overlook the trouble it caused in their marriages for years. Many such spouses say they ultimately determined that filing for divorce would be better than staying in an unhappy relationship. As for chronic illness, not all spouses divorce because of the stress of caring for a sick partner. Some do so for financial reasons as well.

Coming to terms with a gray divorce

Especially if you have grown children and grandchildren, you might feel anxious about telling them that you have decided to file for divorce after decades of marriage. It's helpful to speak with someone you trust, perhaps a friend who has gone through a similar experience, to find encouragement and support as you begin a new lifestyle at an older age.

Gray divorce often includes complex financial issues pertaining to retirement benefits or military benefits if one of you is a retired or active service member. You might also encounter challenges concerning taxes, real estate, stocks and bonds, or other finance-related issues. Speaking to a financial adviser ahead of time is helpful, as well as knowing where to seek legal support, as needed.

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