Gray Divorce on the Rise

Older married couples are getting divorced at high rates

A gray divorce refers to a divorce that occurs later in life, typically involving couples aged 50 or older. Some key characteristics of gray divorces include:

  • The couple has usually been married for a long time, often 20 years or more. This means they married in their 30s or earlier.
  • The decision to divorce often comes as a surprise to family and friends who thought the couple was happy.
  • The divorce rate among older couples has risen sharply in recent decades, even as divorce rates have declined overall.
  • Common reasons for gray divorce include growing apart over time, differences becoming more pronounced in older age, or realizing later in life that the marriage was flawed from the beginning. Empty nest syndrome after the kids leave home can also highlight problems.
  • Gray divorces tend to be emotionally and financially complicated. The couple likely owns significant joint assets and property that must be divided. Retirement funds and plans may need to be split.
  • There are often deep emotional connections and history, which can make the breakup more difficult. But decades of unhappiness or dysfunction can also cause relief at divorce.
  • Post-divorce, older adults may feel isolated or struggle with dating. But many also feel newly independent and empowered to live life on their own terms.

Here are some statistics on gray divorce in the United States:

  • In 1990, only 1 in 10 divorces were gray divorces involving adults 50 and older. In 2016, it was about 1 in 4 divorces.
  • The divorce rate for adults aged 50+ doubled between 1990 and 2015. In 1990 it was about 5 divorces per 1,000 married couples aged 50+. In 2015 it was 10 divorces per 1,000.
  • The divorce rate for adults 65 and older has tripled since 1990.
  • The most common age range for gray divorce is 50-64. However, divorce rates among adults 65+ are rising fastest.
  • Most gray divorces occur in the first 16 years of marriage. The average marriage length at time of gray divorce is 25 years.
  • 75% of gray divorces are initiated by women. Some research suggests women tend to be more dissatisfied in marriages as they age.
  • The main reported reasons for gray divorce are growing apart (55%), not feeling valued (35%), differing interests (30%) and disagreements over money (22%).
  • Financial strain is common after gray divorce, especially for women who may have lower incomes or lost retirement benefits. Poverty rates increase substantially.

If you find yourself anticipating a divorce, reach out to me today. I can help you navigate the complexities and save you lots of money in legal fees.