For years, as a parent, your life revolved around your kids’ schedules, leaving little to no time to spend with your spouse. When the children finally leave home, you may find yourself living with a complete stranger. Without common obligations and experiences holding the marriage together, you may feel strong pressure to separate or at least to reevaluate the relationship on a fundamental level.
This “empty nest” challenge is a surprisingly common one in modern America. Today, people aged 50 and older have a 1 in 4 chance of getting a divorce. More than half of those marriages lasted over 20 years before the couple decided to split.

Research highlights simple, if poignant truths about these break ups. For most empty nest divorces, the marriage does not end due to any discord in the relationship. Instead, the couple simply grows apart. They no longer share the same interests or enjoy doing things together. They stayed together for the sake of the children but lacked enduring reasons to continue forward.

Cultural expectations of marriage have likely shifted as well. Per some (but not all) analyses of health trends in America, Baby Boomers are living longer, healthier lives than previous generations. “60” may be the new “50,” and many Boomers (and late Gen-Exers with grown children) recoil at the notion that they must “make due” with the status quo in any arena of life. Caught in a late-mid-life crisis, these people struggle to redefine who they are and what they desire for their remaining years. Imagining the next 20 years, a newly liberated parent might want to pursue new hobbies, careers, or interests out of step with what the other spouse has in mind.

There’s also the biological factor. As the body ages, hormone levels change, and these fundamental physiological shifts in turn affect how people feel and relate to one another. For instance, women’s levels of oxcytocin – a hormone that encourages nurturing – generally decrease during menopause, causing their interests and desires to shift accordingly. They may feel less drive to “nest” and more of an inclination to travel, check things off “bucket lists,” reconnect with friends and community, and otherwise shake up the routine. Men also experience hormonal shifts as they age, most notably with respect to changes in levels of androgens like testosterone.

Taken together, these cultural, logistical and biological changes that occur in empty nesters can force realignments in priorities and compel even relatively contented couples to reimagine their roles as they relate to the world and to one another.

In Minnesota, judges require couples to go through mediation before granting divorce. In some cases, couples find that an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process like mediation or collaborative divorce helps resolve conflicts, separate martial assets peacefully, and prevent costly, dispiriting litigation.

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Photo of Jason C. Brown Jason C. Brown

“I used to handle commercial litigation downtown, but it wasn’t very fulfilling. As Minnesota family law attorneys we have the privilege of helping people during one of the most challenging times they will face. This stuff really matters to our clients – and…

“I used to handle commercial litigation downtown, but it wasn’t very fulfilling. As Minnesota family law attorneys we have the privilege of helping people during one of the most challenging times they will face. This stuff really matters to our clients – and to us. We take pride in helping people move forward with their lives.”

Jason founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A. He has received national media attention for his work in the area of divorce and family law.

Jason Brown founded the Brown Law Offices, P.A., after clerking for the (now retired) Chief Judge of Minnesota’s Tenth Judicial District. He is an experienced trial lawyer, who handled a wide variety of cases (including civil commitment, criminal defense, probate, personal injury and commercial litigation) early in his career.

Today, Jason’s practice is dedicated exclusively to divorce and family law matters. He has successfully litigated against some of the more recognized family law attorneys in the Twin Cities. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by Thomson Reuters, and one of the Top 100 Family Law Attorneys in Minnesota by the Society of Legal Advocates.

Jason is the former chairperson of the Family Law Section of the Minnesota Trial Lawyer’s Association, and taught divorce and family law coursework within the paralegal program at North Hennepin Community College. He publishes the Minnesota Family Law Blog, which has been recognized as a “Top 25″ by the Minnesota State Bar Association.

Local media appearances by Jason include WCCO Radio, KARE 11 Television, Fox 9 Television and WCCO Television. His national media appearances include NBC News, Time Magazine, USA Today and the Huffington Post.

Jason obtained his B.S., magna cum laude, from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and his J.D., cum laude, from the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. While in law school Jason was a published staff writer and associate editor for the William Mitchell Law Review.

In addition to his work as a lawyer, Jason serves as a mediator, and court-appointed early neutral evaluator, in divorce and family law cases throughout Minnesota.

Outside of the office, Jason plays the bass guitar and serves on the Board of Directors at Northgate Church. He and his wife, Cynthia, also an attorney, have two boys.