Dec 21, 2022
What is Gray Divorce and Why Is It on the Rise?
Gray divorce is a term that describes the increasing trend of couples aged 50 and above getting divorced. While divorce is difficult at any age, it presents unique financial, family, and social challenges for those in this age group. Since 1990, the rate divorce among the over 50 demographic has doubled. Current estimates project it to triple by 2030.
In this article, we’ll examine why the divorce rate among older people is rising and how retirement affects this trend.
Debbie Y. Schneider, Esq., an Attorney at Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation discusses divorce after 50.
What Is Gray Divorce?
Gray divorce, also known as a “Silver Splitter,” refers to the growing trend of couples in the 50+ age group choosing to end their marriages. Many of these couples have been married for decades and have adult children and grandchildren. Divorcing at this stage can be incredibly challenging, as they face spousal support payment concerns, child support issues, and other financial implications.
Examining Why the Divorce Rate Among Older People Is Rising
Divorce rates among baby boomers has been steadily rising over the past few decades for the following reasons:
- Change in Divorce Stigma: Baby Boomers were raised to expect long term marriages, but the culture has shifted over time. Thus, divorce is now more accepted and less stigmatized, even in younger generations.
- Dissatisfaction: Another reason for the rise in gray divorces is dissatisfaction in marriages that have lasted for decades. Many couples in this age group have grown apart over time and no longer share the same values or interests.
- Recurring Divorces: Some older adults may have been divorced and remarried in the past, and they’re now choosing to end their current marriages.
- Longer Life Expectancy: People are living longer and healthier lives and may not be willing to spend their remaining years in an unhappy marriage.
Why Is ‘Gray Divorce’ More Common Now?
The rise of gray divorce is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the past, divorce among older adults was relatively uncommon. But why is it more common now?
One reason is the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. This group of Americans, born between 1946 and 1964, has reached retirement age and beyond. As a result, there are more people in this age group than ever before, and they’re more likely to get divorced than in previous generations.
How Retirement Affects The Gray Divorce Rate
If a couple is already experiencing difficulties in their marriage, retirement can amplify those issues and make it more difficult to find common ground. All of these factors can contribute to an increase in the gray divorce rate:
Changes in Daily Routine
Many couples find that they have less in common when they retire and spend more time together. When spouses retire, they may find that they’re spending more time at home, which can lead to boredom and frustration if they’re not used to spending so much time together.
If one spouse retires and the other continues to work, there may be tension about dividing household chores and expenses. Even if both partners have retired, they may find that their retirement savings aren’t enough to sustain their lifestyle. Thus, financial security in gray divorces disagreements and tension in a marriage.
Loss of Identity
Many people define themselves by their work, and when they retire, they may struggle to find a new purpose. This can be especially challenging for men, who are often socialized to see themselves primarily as breadwinners. If a man retires and no longer has a career to define himself later in life, he may feel lost or disconnected from his spouse and family.
As we age, we’re more likely to experience health problems, and if one partner is struggling with a health issue, the other may feel burdened by caregiving responsibilities.
The rise in divorce among this age group can be attributed to several factors, including changes in social stigma, dissatisfaction, recurring divorces, and longer life expectancies. Retirement can also have an impact on the gray divorce rate.
If you’re facing a gray divorce, seeking professional guidance or a support group is important to navigate this difficult transition’s financial, family, and social challenges.
Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation