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Examining divorce data across decades

Massachusetts couples who are over the age of 40 and who are divorcing are part of an overall trend that shows more older couples were divorcing in 2013 than in 1980 or 1960. On the other hand, fewer couples in their 20s were divorced or remarried in 2013 than compared to those decades. Just over 10 percent of 30-year-olds had ended a first marriage in 2013.

These figures are based on census data from 1960 and 1980 and from the Minnesota Population Center's Integrated Public Microdata Sample Project in 2013. Data for later years is unavailable.

By the time a person reaches 59, the percentage of respondents in 2013 who were on their first marriage was almost equal to the number who were divorced, separated or in a later marriage at 43 and 42 percent respectively. This was the age at which the number of people in the latter group peaked.

Couples who are divorcing may have different needs depending on their age at divorce. Younger couples may have fewer assets, but they may need to deal with issues around child custody and support. For older couples, their children may be grown or nearly grown, but they may have considerable assets to divide that might include a home, retirement accounts, investments or even a business. Some couples prefer to attempt mediation rather than going straight to litigation. Mediation strives to find a solution for both parties, and this may be the preferred option if there are children involved and a couple must continue co-parenting after the divorce. However, litigation is sometimes necessary, and this may be particularly true in complex cases that involve problems such as an attempt to hide assets, challenge prenuptial agreements or move children to another country.

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