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What happens in a "gray divorce"

Ohio couples who are 50 and older may be more likely to go through what is known as a "gray divorce", the phenomenon of older adults ending their marriages. While divorce rates in this age group used to be much lower, since 1990, they have doubled. However, researchers say that gray divorce can put the health of older people at risk.

Some older people may have conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease that worsen under stress. Depression and anxiety can be factors in insomnia, alcohol abuse and overeating. Social isolation is also a health risk, and men may be particularly likely to suffer from this since planning the couple's social life was often the woman's job. Since women are often paid less and may have stayed home to raise children, they might find themselves struggling financially after divorce, even to the point of being unable to afford necessities.

Experts say divorce in this age group happens because people's expectations about marriage are changing, they are living longer and women are less dependent financially on men than in the past. Furthermore, even though divorce is hard, it can be a good thing for some older people who go on to new and fulfilling lives. Being well-prepared for the consequences and taking steps to safeguard mental and physical health is important.

In some cases, an older couple may may want to opt for a mediation. This approach can help them divide property fairly and may be helpful to a lower-earning spouse who is concerned about finances. Even when couples are going through some conflict, mediation might help them resolve it and reach an acceptable agreement. This is often cheaper and quicker than litigation and gives couples more control over the final settlement.

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