It’s not often talked about (except maybe by the statisticians), but age can be a significant factor in divorce—influencing not just the likelihood of getting divorced, but also how the divorce itself plays out. The effect of age on divorce is worth discussing because people usually want different things out of life in their 20s than they do in their 40s or 50s. There are also different emotional, financial and even physical variables in play, all of which vary drastically with age. Here’s a quick overview of how divorce might look at different stages of adulthood.
Divorce at 20-30
Generally speaking, the earlier you marry within this age group, the more likely you are to divorce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 60 percent of couples who marry before age 24 eventually split up. However, when you divorce in your twenties, you’re likely to have fewer points of contention because you’ll likely have fewer assets to sort out between you. If you have children, this will likely be the most complicated factor. In many cases, early divorces are chalked up to marrying too soon or too impulsively. (By the way, age 25-30 seems to be the “sweet spot” for marriages that are likely to last.)
Divorce at 30-40
Statistically speaking, age 30-40 is “prime time” for divorce. Thirty-somethings tend to divorce more than any other age group, mainly because if an existing marriage isn’t working, this is the age when most people realize it. Divorces at this age run the gamut from easy to difficult, and they are typically affected more by finances and custody issues than by age itself.
Divorce at 40, 50 and beyond
As we get older, our age can play a greater role not just in terms of whether we get divorced, but also in terms of how we approach the process. Among the factors most likely to be in play are:
- “Mid-life crisis”—perhaps most pronounced in men
- Menopause—hormonal changes in women can affect both the relationship and decisions made during divorce
- “Empty nest syndrome”—the kids are out of the house, and the spouses feel they have nothing in common
At more advanced ages, divorcing spouses tend to spend more energy on disentangling finances and assets than they do on hammering out custody and visitation issues, simply because their children tend to be older.
Why does age matter?
The biggest reason to consider the effects of age on divorce is that our priorities tend to change with age, while divorce is usually a final solution. If a mid-life crisis has thrown the relationship out of balance, for instance, the problem could be temporary. After that crisis passes (due to time, therapy, changes in circumstance, etc.), the marriage might once again thrive.