Untying the knot, more couples calling it quits later in life is the troubling headline of a story by Korky Vann; a special to the Hartford Courant, republished in the Courier-Journal yesterday. When Hon. John Potter, retired, was presiding in Jefferson Family Court many years ago, he said that there ought to be a statute of limitations precluding octogenarians from divorcing. The comment may have been in jest, but there is some wisdom behind it.
The book behind the story, “Calling It Quits: Late Life Divorce and Starting Over” by Deidre Blair will be published January 30, 2007 by Random House. It is difficult to quibble with stats from a book not yet available, but the interpretation of some stats do not jibe with my experience. For example, in finding that most divorces among the elderly are initiated by women, Blair concludes, “Everyone thinks that older men trade in their spouse for a ‘trophy wife,’” said Blair. “Turned out that wasn’t the case.” The fact is that among all age groups, most divorce petitions are filed by women. The reason women initiate the petition may not mean they most want to divorce. In many cases they have no access to the finances and need the protection of the court. If a man is having an affair, he may not see that as a reason to file for divorce. It’s the old “have your cake and eat it too” mentality. The woman may file for divorce in such a situation because the duplicity is simply more intolerable for her. It does not mean that she prefers to be single.
Among the elderly, I most often see divorces in second marriages where the adult children seem to have some influence, I suspect to protect an inheritance. The right to care for an aging parent is sometimes the real issue. Dementia and paranoia can make the marriage intolerable.
All in all it is a serious and troubling subject and trend that requires study. Maybe Judge Potter had it spot on.
I didn’t find the story online. If someone runs across it and comments with a link, I’d be glad to post.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the online story.