A Senior Moment for Hutton Gibson

Gibson Files For Divorce

Hutton Gibson, father of controversial actor Mel Gibson, is citing irreconcilable differences for his divorce from his wife Teddy Joye Gibson who he married in 2002. But that’s not what made the story stand out. What did is the fact that Hutton Gibson is 93 years old.

According to TMZ, what lies at the center of this case is a charge of elder abuse. Supposedly Joye, who is 78, is withholding medicine from the ailing Gibson and believes his family, including son Mel, is trying to unnecessarily prolong his life. What makes this even more interesting is that it is Gibson who is demanding spousal support from Hutton along with her paying his attorney fees.

In 1990, approximately 10% of people over the age of 50 got divorced. By 2009 that figure had jumped to 25% with approximately 600,000 people entering in to what has been coined “Gray Divorce” making it the fastest growing segment of the divorced population.

The reasons older Americans get divorced are as varied as their younger counterparts. A 2004 AARP survey showed that divorce is initiated most frequently by women and cites infidelity as playing a role in 27% of the cases which is similar irrespective of age. So why are we seeing a spike in “Gray Divorces?”

As our Baby Boomer population explodes, we’re seeing some of tenets of the “Me Generation” come in to play. Before the 1970’s marriage was seen as having very defined roles but in short order, the entire institution of marriage was not only questioned but redefined. A great contributor to this was the feminist movement which broke down the stereotypes of how womanhood was viewed. With more women entering into the work force and defining their worth based more on their individual accomplishments than how well they served their “wifely duties,” we entered in to a phase that saw a huge spike in divorces which continued through the 1980’s.

Today, divorce is leveling off and is at the lowest overall rate since 1970. Of course, we are also seeing the lowest percentage of Americans getting married at any time in our history. Yet “Gray Divorce” is on the rise and is expected to continue on this path for many years. For many older Americans the lack of social stigma previously attached to divorce has paved the way for their decision. With the children raised and on their own, and the realization that life comes attached with a ticking clock, many spouses are no longer committed to the notion of “…till death do we part” and don’t view a failed marriage as a failed life.

But within the “Gray Divorce” category what is most striking is that more than half of those getting divorced have been married before. And for those over the age of 65 who have been married before the likelihood of getting divorced is four times greater than for those who have only been married once.

We get married and divorced for a variety of reasons. When we are younger, we feel we have our whole lives ahead of us and tend to not pay attention to the finality of life. We think about raising families, creating income and enjoying our youth. But as we get older, we become aware that time is of the essence. So my question to you this week is:

Do you feel the institution of marriage becomes less important as we get older?

About The Author

David Pisarra, Esq. heads the Santa Monica-based family law firm of Pisarra & Grist and Men’s Family Law, dedicated to providing men the information and support they need to navigate the tumultuous waters of divorce. He has a weekly column in the Santa Monica Daily Press titled “What’s the Point” and is the author of four books on divorce. His most recent, “What About Wally: Co-Parenting a Pet With Your Ex” is the first book dedicated to the common issue of pet parents divorcing and the legal and dog behavior elements at play.

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