Researchers say that a growing proportion of older couples are seeking divorce. Studies show that the national divorce rate has doubled for couples older than 50 since 1990, rising from about 12.5 percent to approximately 25 percent. Research suggests that in many of these instances, it is the woman who initially pursues divorce.

Maryland typically sees a lower divorce rate than most other states, recording 2.8 divorces per 1,000 people in 2009. For many couples, however, divorce provides a valuable means to escape an unhealthy relationship, explore new opportunities or simply end a marriage that is no longer happy. This is especially true for older couples who are no longer obligated to care for children.

Some experts believe that as the average lifespan increases, couples are becoming less likely to remain in marriages that span several decades. One divorce lawyer explained, “People are no longer willing to compromise to live an unhappy life just for the sake of a marriage…. Spending four decades, five decades, six decades with the same person is becoming more difficult.” A marriage counselor added that older women often feel more youthful even as they age, making them more likely to divorce if their “needs aren’t being met.”

Studies also show that older women now have an increased degree of financial independence compared to previous generations. This allows them to more easily move on from marriages, whereas women in previous generations were often unable to support themselves and were thus forced to stay married. Baby boomers also frequently put particular emphasis on personal happiness, researchers explained, making divorce even more likely.

Source: CBS Miami, “Empty Nest Divorce Rate Rising,” June 1, 2012