Divorce & Women Over 50

By the time a woman is 30, there is about one chance in two she will ever get married. And at 40, only one chance in five.

By the time she is 50, the chances she will marry are just one in 16. And after 60, her chances drop to one in 62.

Among U.S. adults ages 50 and older, the divorce rate has roughly doubled since the 1990s, according to a Pew Research Center report.

However for many women that comes at a great cost. If she’s been a homemaker, she may not realize how bleak the job market may be for someone over 50 with a scant work record.

Her style of living will change drastically in many cases. She might lose her beloved home and end up in an apartment around younger people who party a lot. And that is likely not appealing.

Divorce rates in the United States are declining—except for people over 50.

When you’re over 50 and getting divorced, your finances have probably been intertwined for decades. Which makes it even more complicated.

And then there are the Social Security benefits, pension plans and retirement plans to think about. You can’t just focus on their current value, but their value down the line.

Add to that taxes, which are complicated and worrisome to begin with. But realize that that will come into play during a divorce. You have to divide and distribute your assets, especially your retirement funds.

Divorce is never easy, but the older you are, the more complex everything is as well.

It seems that January is the most common month people file for divorce. Maybe they are thinking ahead to tax time in April. Or being happier is a New Year’s resolution.

Gray Divorce is the term used to identify couples who divorce in middle age or beyond. I suppose that’s fitting.

First you Survive… Then you Revive… and finally you Thrive.

A widely-circulated finding from a study by a London professor suggests that while marriage increases the happiness of men, married women are actually more miserable than single women.

So potentially the divorcing woman over 50 is looking at brighter days and a healthier outlook on life.

Think about it. You only have yourself to look after. No more picking up his dirty clothes. No more nit-picking and arguments. Or sticking to routines he desired but you’ve long since outgrown.

There is a bright side to divorce over 50, and I will attest to this myself. My divorce was a gift, though I didn’t know that at the time.

It was the beginning of a new and healthier life. I came to know myself for me, instead of looking at myself through his eyes.

That gift did not show up right away. At first I was terrified and uncertain.

But I knew that the divorce was not a mistake. I knew that there was no way to salvage years of infidelity and misery. The whole thing had been a mistake to begin with, I finally realized.

I looked back on the years wasted and cursed myself. But then, in the beginning you are looking at your relationship through rose-colored glasses. And rose-colored glasses lie.

You stop thinking about what he might want, and begin focusing on what you want.

Not everyone wants to get remarried. I swore I’d never even date again. And I’m quite happy with that decision. There’s a lot to be said for fixing meals for one, cleaning up after one, and being in charge of one.

You can eat pancakes for supper and decorate however you want. You have only yourself to please.

You can move the furniture around at 3 a.m. if you so desire and sleep with three dogs and two cats. Your life is your own!

There is light at the end of the tunnel. If you have not made enough money while married to build up Social Security benefits for retirement, there are ways you can tap into his.

Facts from the Social Security website:

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record (even if they have remarried) if:

  • You are unmarried;
  • You are age 62 or older;
  • Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.

Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse’s full retirement amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age.

The benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse may receive.

If you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce, or annulment).

If your ex-spouse has not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

I started receiving benefits right before I recently turned 62 because my ex-spouse died. He had been a high earner, so although I was at least 5 years from full retirement age, I was still able to receive a decent amount of income.

Finding Yourself:

It takes awhile to find joy. To realize all the wonderful things to look forward to about life after divorce. You can take up a hobby you’ve always been interested in. Have more time to join a book club.

I love living alone. It was the very prescription for life that I needed. I can say that I am now finally comfortable in my own skin.

More than likely you saw fissures in your marriage long before you came to the decision to get a divorce. Those fissures widen and move you farther away from one another as time goes by.

I am reminded of lyrics written by Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Those cracks terrified you when you found that you could no longer ignore them. But that is how the light gets in. That is how you find your future.

I found a website I shall be digging into later. It is for those of us aged 60 and over. It is called Sixty And Me.

Another website is called Midlife Divorce Recovery. Here is a link to a great article on how to survive divorce after 50.

And here is a link to information on how to save during retirement without going back to work.


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  1. The laws vary by state even though Social Security is a federal program. If you have worked you could receive less.

    1. Brenda, thank you for including a link to 60 & Me. I am just recently retired and feeling out of place. I feel that this website is just the ticket for me. I just wanted to say I have been reading and enjoying your blog for years. Thank you for providing insights and helping others with your life experiences. Best regards to you, Charlie and Ivy, Lisa Loch

  2. Excellent post Brenda. I actually have many friends who are going through this right now, all over 50, only one is engaged.

  3. I, too found Margaret on “Sixty & Me” on YouTube….I enjoyed her videos and her website a lot.
    I’m one of your lurkers that doesn’t comment very often, but I love reading your blog and seeing pictures of what decor you’ve put together next.
    Thank you!

  4. Brenda, Please take my last name off my comment before publishing. Thank you.

  5. Interesting perspective. I have to say, IMHO, that if someone is NOW just about 50 and they have not had the sense to either have a job or a decent skill where they could get a job, that is beyond belief! I’m 65 and I had the sense, even back in the 70’s, to be sure to get a college degree (Associate, not a Bachelor’s) and get a decent job so as to support myself IN CASE I didn’t get married. Or even if I did get married, you just never know what the future holds. These young girls I see who have a bunch of kids and never bothered to work after they got a degree are the ones living in La La Land! Especially when the unemployment rate was so high just a few years ago. And they are living the life of a big house, big car, nice everything. We’ll see how that plays out for them. But there is really no excuse for someone 50 or younger at present, to not have a job. Ignorance is no excuse anymore.

  6. I have many older friends who would never consider remarrying! Too often those old men are looking for “a nurse or a purse”!! We don’t intend to be either one! LOL

    1. Your comment about “A nurse or a purse” made me chuckle and think of my mom. She was not divorced, but was widowed at age 67 when my dad died of a heart attack after over a decade of cardiac issues. When she was in her 70s, my mom began to spend time with a man she had gone to high school with. His health began to fail, and his daughters and he began to push for my mom and him to get married. But my mom wasn’t having any of it, and said no, she would bring him food and visit with him but she was not going to get married again. She told me in private, “I already took care of one sick husband and I’m not going to take care of another one.” She’s now 88 and has had her own health issues over the years, including having cancer. She is in good health now, but I really doubt that she would be doing so well if she had taken on another sick husband.

      1. Brenda, first of all I love your blog and read it every day. Today’s topic of divorced women was really
        interesting. I am not divorced, but I am very interested how women survive being divorced or widowed
        when they are older…. the nitty-gritty of it. How did they find a home, a job, what did they do to actually
        survive, how did they feed themselves, were they scared, how much/how little money did they have,
        and to talk about the brokenness at the beginning and how they got to be thriving. Would you ever
        be interested in writing a book or starting another blog that just features older women and how they
        survive? Based on the comments you get when you write about emotional things, I think it would be a hit because even for the happily married, there could always come a day when the “what if” happens.
        Thanks for listening.

        a hit. An

  7. Brenda, I divorced at age 40. I have since remarried, but after the initial adjustment I did love being single. It was, at times, a little rocky on the income side, even though I held a good job. But as you said, I answered to no one but myself. There are times I wish for the single life again, but the advantages of being married currently outweigh the disadvantages. As far as social security is concerned, I believe you can be remarried and still receive some of your ex-husbands social security. When you apply, that is one of the questions you are asked and it seemed to up my SS income. I’m not an expert, by any means, but that’s how I remember it. That’s why I feel like it’s much better to apply in person, you can ask all your questions face to face. Thanks for providing your readers with good content, there are probably many who do have questions on this very subject.

  8. I did it, but it wasn’t easy. 1980 in the rear view mirror is a long way back there but it saved my sanity and my life. It is possible to go through it and enjoy the single life on your own. No more fear or having to follow orders from a tyrant. Life is beautiful. Here’s to the survivors, God bless them.

    1. Thank you for this information. I appreciate you explaining how the divorced party’s benefit from the former spouse is reduced if the divorced party files before her FULL
      Retirement date. I was a stay at home wife for 25 years. My Social Security office gave me incorrect information when I filed at 62. So now I can not collect on my former spouse’s larger account because my discount for filing early under my earnings is subtracted from his benefit before half of his earnings is considered. If they had correctly told me this I could have waited until I was 65 and at my full retirement age. social Security is not responsible for giving incorrect information. You have spread very important information today.

      1. And another thing, if your ex spouse dies, as mine did, I was able to collect benefits right before I turned 62. I think I got my first check in my checking account the month of my 62 birthday, which was this past February. In that case, you are considered a survivor. Otherwise I’d have had to wait until I was almost 67 if he had not died.

        1. I just checked the SS site. You have to be within 3 months of your 62 birthday, which I was. If you are divorced, you are still considered for widow’s benefits if you were married at least 10 years.

  9. Thank you. I could have written this story myself. Even though I was terrified when my husband left me with no money, no home, and wrecked credit, the weight off my shoulders was a glorious thing. We are stronger than we think.

  10. How did you know? My husband died 20 years ago at 56. I was sad and depressed for 5+ years. I dated and drank a lot and gratefully survived. I did collect his SS at 59 and was able to afford Kaiser healthcare. Now I am happy to say *I Am Thriving*. Thanks for reminding me how far I’ve come. To all the women out there whose spouses left or died … YOU WILL SURVIVE AND THRIVE. Gratefully yours, Susan

    1. Thank you for sharing the information about social security. Most people do not know the rules and regulations. Social security administration will not tell women that they are entitled to benefits from the ex husbands account. If asked of course they will answer the questions. I am a registered tax accountant and see so many examples of the poverty amoung women who have devoted their lives to taking care of husband and home. Only to be rewarded with being tossed out like yesterdays trash. Most of those men think they have prospered all on their own. Which of course is far from true. I will get down from my soap box now but again want to thank you for your upbuilding post.

  11. I am grateful for the information you share! At 62 I am searching for answers for my future retirement and how to survive on very little income. I plan to check out these links! Thank you!

  12. As the song says, “wisdom born of pain”. You have done very well for yourself Brenda!

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