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Late life divorce surprises many

FARGO -- Fargo attorney Maureen Holman says when it comes to divorce, every situation is different.

But after 28 years practicing family law, she is still surprised when a client wants to talk about ending a marriage after 20, 30, or even 40 years.

"It's kind of odd," said Holman, adding that in her experience most divorcing couples have been together three to 15 years.

For those who untie the knot after 35 or 40 years, Holman said it may be a case of someone finally becoming psychologically strong enough to take the step.

Others may hold off until their spouse is doing well enough to support them financially after the divorce, according to Holman, who said the reasons people give for leaving vary.

Many cite affairs.

"It's amazing how many times an affair is involved," Holman said.

"But you just don't know," she added. "Did that come about because they've never had a good relationship with their spouse and that's their way of dealing with it, or have they never been committed to their marriage?"

A little tenderness

Alva Dyrud, a counselor with the Village Family Service Center, says troubled relationships often have similar themes at their core.

What drives many people to marry, she said, is a desire for companionship and a feeling that they are connected to someone else.

A change in a family situation, like children growing up and leaving home, can shake the foundations of a couple's identity, according to Dyrud. "Suddenly, the kids are gone and they don't have this sense of togetherness. Where do they find that?"

For someone struggling with such issues, Dyrud said reaching out to friends and others for support can sometimes be enough to make a relationship work.

She said one thing that helps all relationships is an understanding of the importance of staying connected.

"There's that need for someone to be available. Not just physically in the same room, but emotionally present with that person. That can make a big difference," she said.

Sad surprise

When things do go wrong and someone bails from a long-term marriage, it is often a surprise to the other spouse, Holman said.

And the ramifications, both emotional and financial, can be devastating.

"For those who don't have the assets, who were planning on waltzing off into the sunset together, it can be very, very difficult," Holman said.

The same can be said for children whose parents divorce late in life, accord-ing to Holman, who said her opinion is based on a personal theory, not clinical data.

"I could be way off base, but when you think of kids in their early 20s, they are going through such a period of upheaval," Holman said.

"The only thing that is truly stable in their life is mom and dad back home. You take that away and everything that is stable is gone. Some of those kids have a really hard time," Holman said.

She said some clients come to her merely thinking about divorce and after hearing what it may cost them they decide it's not worth pursuing.

Holman said that depend-ing on the ages of a couple or their health situations, she may advise clients who want out of a marriage to simply consider waiting, as nature may take its course and leave them on their own soon enough.

But a number, she said, decide time is too precious.

"I think sometimes somebody just thinks, 'I'd rather have my fun now, while I can,"' Holman said.

Olson is a writer for The Forum, which is owned by

Forum Communications Co.