Attentive Family Law Help When You Need It

Gray divorces: a growing trend across the United States

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2024 | Divorce, Grey Divorce

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in divorces among older couples, what is known as “gray divorce,” which refers to a divorce between people over the age of 50.

This trend might come as a surprise, given that we often associate divorce with younger couples. However, it is a trend that is here to stay for several reasons, as more and more couples in the United States decide to separate or divorce later in life or well into their marriage.

What is a gray divorce?

Gray divorce is a relatively recent trend taking family law offices by storm, and it refers to couples, often over the age of 50, filing for divorce or separating.

These are usually couples who have been married for a long time and decide to part ways after being together for 20, 30, 40 years or even longer.

The popularity of gray divorces

Several factors contribute to this evolving trend, including:

  • Longer life expectancy, which encourages the belief that it is never too late to be happy and seek that happiness in whatever form, even if it means divorcing a current spouse.
  • Evolving views on marriage, including shifting views about divorce, a decrease in the stigma once associated with divorce and people feeling more empowered to leave their spouses.
  • Financial independence and the fact that when two people work full time, especially if they are older, or well-off, they can afford to live separately and choose another partner,
  • Recent self-help movements that encourage people to seek fulfillment in their lives at whatever stage, regardless of whether they have a spouse,
  • Empty nest syndrome is when the kids leave the house and become independent and some couples realize they no longer have anything substantive keeping them together.
  • The “fear of missing out,” also known as FOMO, has gained popularity in recent years and describes the feeling people experience when they think of how much happier they could be.

Why now?

Why is this trend growing so rapidly, and why is it happening now? While the answer is not simple, and there are many reasons for this, studies show that:

  • Baby-boomers aging contributes to growing rates of gray divorce
  • The popularity of second or third marriages
  • People redefining the retirement stage, or third act, of their lives

Impact of gray divorce

While gray divorce can lead to newfound independence, happiness and love, it is not without its challenges, especially if one spouse does not want the divorce, which is often the case.

Additionally, couples may face complications when trying to split up after so many years because their lives are so intertwined that almost everything they have is together, especially their finances.

Lastly, prenuptial agreements were not as popular decades ago as they are now, which makes for complicated financial splits.

Gray divorce is reshaping what relationships and happiness look like later in life. People well into their 50s are finding fulfillment and love in new relationships, renewed energy in their independence and an opportunity to get to know and recreate themselves all over again.

At the same time, it can be a painful experience for spouses who do not want to split up. However, it is often the case that once a spouse makes up their mind that they want out of the marriage, it is difficult to convince them to change their mind, especially if they are able to keep a similar level of comfort and other areas of their life are not as affected by the divorce as they would be in younger folks.