How “Gray Divorce” Impacts Women Differently
By M. Scott Gordon
Over the last couple of decades, researchers have identified a trend in divorce rates and older adults. In short, more people over the age of 50 are getting divorced, according to a recent article in Forbes Magazine, and this phenomenon is known as “gray divorce.” While numerous sociologists have begun exploring the reasons for gray divorce and the motivations for Chicago area residents in the Baby Boomer generation to file for divorce during their retirement years, we do not often hear a lot about specific gender issues impacting those new divorcees. As the article argues, gray divorces often results in a more difficult financial future for women than for men.
Why are women disproportionately affected by gray divorce? And are there steps that women in the Baby Boomer generation can take to help limit the financial impact of divorce?
General Financial Difficulties Later in Life
To be sure, it is not only women who suffer financially as a result of gray divorce. Regardless of gender, divorce usually deals a financial blow to both spouses. Whereas once a couple split the costs of a single house and the bills and upkeep associated with it, divorce requires two separate residences and two separate sets of utility bills. For younger people, it is easier to “regain their financial footing after a divorce,” yet for people over the age of 50, “the loss can be much harder to recoup.” Indeed, building back up a savings account can be much more difficult if you have already retired (as opposed to if you have plans to continue working and earning money for decades to come).
Yet women are at risk of being disproportionately affected in terms of financial losses in a gray divorce, usually because of social constraints and socialized norms that prevented them from getting ahead in the workforce in prior years. The article explains that, “given higher incomes and more continuous work histories, men are generally much better positioned than women to weather the financial storm of a divorce.” For women in the Baby Boomer generation, getting married often meant taking time away from a job in order to raise children as a stay-at-home mom. While the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) makes clear that this kind of decision is one of the factors a court should take into account when determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate, time away from outside employment can make it difficult to reach your earning potential later on.
What Can Women Do to Avoid Financial Problems?
If you are considering divorce in the future, it is a good idea to take steps while you are still legally married to protect yourself. The article recommends some of the following tips: