Why is gray divorce usually harder on women than men?

This article looks at why women tend to be more negatively impacted by divorce later in life than men.

Gray divorce has been one of the most notable new demographic trends in recent years, with the rate at which people over 50 are divorcing soaring to record heights. As The Week reports, about a quarter of all divorces now involve a spouse who is 50 or older and the rate at which this older cohort of Americans is divorcing has more than doubled in the past couple decades. What is particularly interesting about gray divorce, however, is how it affects men and women differently, both during divorce and in their lives afterwards.

Reasons for gray divorce are complicated

The reasons that older people are divorcing are numerous, but in many cases the decision to call it quits usually only comes after years of being in an unhappy marriage. For many couples, the decision to divorce arrives after their children are grown up and financially independent. In such a situation, one or both spouses may find they no longer have much in common with one another and they don't particularly savor the possibility of spending another 30 years in a marriage that has begun to feel loveless.

The reasons cited by spouses themselves tend to differ dramatically between men and women. As The Week reports, women were more likely to blame their husbands' addictions to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Women were also more likely to be trying to leave an emotionally or physically abusive relationship.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to blame different attitudes towards money management and child rearing as reasons for divorcing later in life.

Women worse off financially

Despite the fact that men are more likely to blame financial problems for divorcing, it is women who tend to be worse off financially than their former husbands after a divorce. As Bloomberg reports, the reason for the discrepancy is because men are still more likely to be in control of major financial decisions than their wives are. A survey performed by UBS Global Wealth Management found that 56 percent of married women leave major financial decisions to their husbands.

As a result, when a divorce does happen later in life, women are more likely to be in a disadvantageous position. For one, women are less likely to know the full extent of the assets the couple owns, thus making them more vulnerable to an ex-husband trying to conceal assets. Secondly, many women who get divorced later in life find out that their ex-husbands were less than responsible with the couple's finances, which can leave the woman with much less financial security going into retirement than she expected.

Getting help from an attorney

The decisions that need to be made during a divorce are important and, for older couples getting a divorce, those decisions could have a major impact on the comfort of their retirements. That is why anybody considering a divorce later in life should talk to a family law attorney right away. An attorney can help clients protect their best interests, thus better setting them up for success in their post-divorce lives.