Understanding the gray divorce phenomenon

On Behalf of | Dec 16, 2023 | Divorce |

The ways that people tend to approach their interpersonal relationships have changed greatly over the years. One notable trend related to this shift is the so-called “gray divorce” phenomenon.

The name is a nod to the fact that divorce rates are dropping for folks under 45 years of age, but rising among those who are older. In 2019, 36% of divorces were among couples over 50 years of age, and one in four involved couples over 65.

What’s driving the surge in late-in-life divorces?

The reasons that people get divorced (regardless of their age) are endlessly variable, but gray divorces seem to have some common factors. These include:

  • Longer life expectancies: People are living longer and staying healthier than they did decades ago. As a result, people may find themselves questioning their life choices well into their 50s, 60s and 70s. If they’re dissatisfied with their marriage, they may decide that they simply don’t want to live another decade or two in the same situation.
  • Financial independence: In years gone by, it wasn’t uncommon for husbands to work and wives to be homemakers. That generally tied a couple together financially, since wives were usually economically dependent on their husbands. Today, both spouses usually have their own careers and their own incomes – and that can make both feel more empowered to leave an unhappy relationship.
  • Changing social norms: Social mores have changed. Divorce used to be seen a tragedy and a failure. Today, people see divorce as a proactive approach toward obtaining personal happiness and self-fulfillment.
  • Empty nest syndrome: Sometimes couples find that they’ve been so focused on raising their children that they’ve neglected their own relationship. When the last child leaves home, the couple may find themselves reassessing their relationship. If they feel like virtual strangers to each other, it may simply be easier to move on.

Anybody who is contemplating a gray divorce needs to recognize that they can differ from divorces among younger couples in significant ways. The financial aspect of the divorce is usually the main focus, especially when there are retirement accounts, insurance issues and real estate to address. If you’re contemplating a gray divorce, it’s wise to seek legal guidance as early as possible as a result.