The overall divorce rate in Pennsylvania and around the country has hovered around 50 percent for several decades, but this consistency hides major underlying demographic shifts. While couples between 25 and 39 years of age are divorcing less often, divorces among couples aged 50 or older have more than doubled in the last 25 years. This has greatly influenced how the process is handled as older couples usually approach the negotiating table with different concerns and objectives.

While child custody and visitation arrangements are rarely an issue in what are known as gray divorces, Social Security benefits and ongoing health insurance often are. Dividing IRA and 401(k) funds can also be a delicate issue for older spouses as accessing money that had been earmarked for retirement often involves paying a penalty and higher taxes.

Some of the spouses in gray divorces often played only a minor role when financial decisions were taken and know little about plans that are in place and investments that have been made. They may also be unaware of the true costs of living alone. This can make them extremely vulnerable in divorce negotiations if they are not adequately represented.

Divorces involving couples who have been married for many years are less likely to be contentious, and older spouses may be reluctant to air their grievances in public by taking their cases to court. However, that does not mean the issues involved are not thorny. When conventional negotiations fail to produce an amicable agreement over matter such as property division and spousal support, experienced family law attorneys may suggest exploring alternatives to court. Collaborative divorce and mediation sessions are less adversarial, and they are designed to find common ground and shared objectives.