You’re not alone if you’re contemplating divorce and thinking of your future differently. As you age, priorities often shift, and goals change. In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in divorces among older couple age groups in the United States. This trend has been dubbed “gray divorce.” Let’s look at how to think about your long-term marriage and possible separation to avoid gray divorce regrets and make the best decision for your relationship.

What is a Gray Divorce?

So, what is gray divorce? Simply put, gray divorce refers to the phenomenon of divorce among couples who are over the age of 50. While divorce rates have been declining in recent years, gray divorce has been on the rise. According to a study by the National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, the divorce rate for adults aged 50 and older has doubled since 1990.

Overall, gray divorce is a complex and challenging issue that affects many older couples in the United States. While it may be a difficult process, couples need to consider their options carefully and seek the guidance of professionals to ensure that they make informed decisions they won’t later regret!

Why are “Gray Divorces” So Common?

There are several reasons why gray divorce is becoming more common.

Increasing Life Expectancy

One factor is the increasing life expectancy of Americans. People are living longer and healthier lives, so they may feel that they have more time to start a new chapter in their lives. As people approach retirement age, they may reassess their relationships and decide that they no longer want to spend their golden years with their current spouse.

Women’s Role in Society

Women are now more likely to be financially independent and may feel they no longer need to stay in an unfulfilling marriage. In the 1990s, women had fewer opportunities for education and career advancement and were more likely to rely on their spouses for financial support.

Today, women have more opportunities for education and career advancement and are more financially independent. Here are some ways in which women’s roles in society have contributed to more gray divorces:

  • Financial Independence: Women today are more likely to have their own careers and sources of income, making them less dependent on their spouses. This financial independence can allow women to leave an unhappy marriage and seek a better life independently.
  • Changing Expectations: Women today have higher expectations for their marriages than in the past. They are more likely to seek emotional fulfillment and equal partnership in their relationships. Women may be more likely to end their marriages if these expectations are not met.
  • Social Norms: Social norms around gender roles have evolved significantly over the past few decades. Women today are less likely to be expected to prioritize their roles as wives and mothers over their own personal fulfillment. This expectation shift can lead women to question their relationships and seek greater fulfillment in life.
  • Increased Education: Women today are more likely to have advanced degrees and successful careers. This education and career success can lead to greater financial independence and personal fulfillment and can also lead women to reevaluate their relationships and seek more equality in their marriages.
  • Ageism: Women are also less likely to tolerate the ageism that was prevalent in the past. They may no longer feel compelled to stay in a marriage simply because they are older and instead prioritize their own personal fulfillment and happiness.

Overall, women’s changing societal roles have contributed to the rise of gray divorces. As women have gained greater financial independence, changed their expectations for marriage, and sought greater fulfillment, they may be more likely to end a marriage that no longer meets their needs.

Divorce is No Longer a Stigma

Another factor is the changing social norms around divorce. In the past, divorce was stigmatized and considered taboo. Divorce is more accepted and normalized today, and people may feel more comfortable ending their marriage if they are no longer happy.

The Baby Boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, has always been known for challenging social norms and breaking with tradition. As Baby Boomers age, they may continue to challenge the norms around aging and relationships, leading to even more acceptability for choosing divorce.

Financial Independence

Financial independence is also a factor in the rise of gray divorces. As more women enter the workforce and achieve financial independence, they may rely less on their spouses for financial support. This can give them the freedom to leave an unhappy marriage.

Technological Advances Bring Connections

Lastly, technological advances have made it easier for people to connect with others outside of their marriage. Social media, dating apps, and other online platforms can make it easier for people to find new romantic connections, which may lead to the breakdown of a marriage.

Overall, gray divorces are so common because of a combination of factors, including increased life expectancy, changing social norms, financial independence, and technological advances. While divorce can be difficult at any age, seeking support and counseling can help individuals navigate the emotional and practical challenges of late-life divorce.

10 Gray Divorce Factors to Consider: Are You Making The Right Decision?

Divorce can be a painful and difficult experience at any age, but it can be especially challenging when couples decide to end their marriage later in life. While there are many reasons why older couples choose to divorce, there are also common regrets that many individuals experience after the fact.

Before deciding to end a long-term marriage, many important issues should be considered. Here are 10 gray divorce issues to consider before making a decision about your marriage:

1. Financial Impact on the Divorce Process

Divorce can significantly impact your financial situation, particularly if you have shared assets, such as a house or retirement savings. It’s essential to consider the potential financial implications of divorce, including the cost of living alone, division of assets, and spousal support.

However, some steps can be taken to minimize the negative financial consequences of a gray divorce. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Consult with a financial advisor: A financial advisor can help you understand the long-term financial implications of a divorce and create a plan to mitigate the impact. They can also help you develop a realistic budget and investment strategy for your post-divorce life.
  • Consider mediation or collaborative divorce: Mediation or collaborative divorce can be a more cost-effective and amicable way to settle divorce issues than traditional litigation. These methods involve working with a neutral third party to reach a mutually beneficial agreement rather than relying on a court to make decisions.
  • Prioritize your assets: Prioritizing your investments can help you protect your financial future. Consider prioritizing assets that have the most value and long-term financial benefit, such as retirement accounts and property, over assets that may have more sentimental value but less monetary value.

2. Emotional Impact

Gray divorce can bring on significant emotional adjustment issues. One of the most common regrets among those who divorce later in life is the loss of companionship.

After decades of marriage, couples may find it challenging to adjust to life as a single person. Many couples have built a deep connection with each other and shared many experiences together.

When a marriage ends, adjusting to life without that constant companionship and emotional support can be difficult. You can also face social isolation and loneliness, especially if they have been part of a couple for a long time.

Consider joining community clubs or organizations or being part of support groups to help keep yourself in a good frame of mind. Or seek support from friends, family, or a therapist.

3. Health Concerns

Health concerns become more prevalent as we age. If you or your spouse have health issues, it’s essential to consider how a divorce may impact your ability to provide and receive care.

Health concerns can also be a source of regret after a late-life divorce. Aging can bring many health issues, and having a spouse to provide support and care can be invaluable.

After a divorce, individuals may struggle with health issues alone or without the same support they had in their marriage. Talk with an estate planning attorney to see the possible impacts and issues to look at before talking about divorce with your spouse.

4. Living Arrangements

One or both spouses may need to find a new living arrangement after a divorce. This can be challenging, particularly if you have lived together for many years.

Part of the equitable distribution process is considering who will keep the home. It’s possible that one of you can buy out the other and have a new nest egg to start over with. Renting a small apartment may give you less room to clean and worry about.

5. Social Connections

It can be difficult to maintain social connections built around the marriage after a divorce. It’s important to consider how a divorce may impact your social life and seek out new relationships.

Sometimes in divorce, your “couples” friends may no longer have room for you on their social calendar. Find other singles or married couples who enjoy spending time with you. You can meet others in groups with similar interests.

For example, if you love gardening, join local garden clubs or be part of a community garden. If you’re not extroverted by nature, force yourself to put yourself out there. You may find a new best friend and, at the very least, develop your social skills.

6. Adult Children

some people regret their divorce’s impact on their adult children and grandchildren. Divorce can be emotionally challenging for everyone involved, and older couples may worry about its impact on their children and grandchildren. This can lead to feelings of guilt and regret.

Divorce can be emotionally challenging for adult children, particularly if they are close to both parents. It’s essential to consider the impact a divorce may have on your children and grandchildren.

Minimize the conflict and struggle by only speaking kindly about your soon-to-be ex-spouse whenever possible. Remember that your spouse’s flaws may not bother others the way they irritate you. Others in the family deserve to have relationships with whomever they choose, and you’ll also make it easier on yourself if you try to appreciate their good sides.

7. Legal Matters

Divorce can be a complex legal process, particularly if you have shared assets or debt. It’s essential to consult with a lawyer to understand your legal rights and obligations.

Talking with an experienced divorce attorney can help you understand your rights and obligations in a divorce. You may have rights to alimony or separation support if you’ve been home with kids for 20 years while your spouse worked. However, you may not need or want alimony if you’ve both worked and made similar income.

8. Retirement Plans

Divorce can significantly impact retirement plans, including social security benefits and pension plans. It’s essential to consider the potential impact of divorce on your retirement plans. Working with an estate planning attorney can help you consider the effect of divorce on your estate plans for future financial security.

9. Shared Responsibilities

After a divorce, shared responsibilities, such as caring for a home or pets, may need to be renegotiated. It’s important to consider how a divorce may impact your shared responsibilities.

10. Future Goals

Divorce can impact your future goals and plans. It’s important to consider how a divorce may impact your long-term goals and make informed decisions about your future.

For example, if you’re planning to start your own business, you may need the support of your spouse to get through the delicate first year. After finding yourself a new career, your marriage may feel more fulfilled and divorce a less attractive option.

Why Mediation is Your Best Option for Gray Divorce

Mediation is often considered the best option for gray or late-life divorce for several reasons. Here are some of the main benefits of choosing mediation for a gray divorce:

  • Cost-effective: Mediation is often more cost effective than traditional litigation, as it involves working with a neutral third party, such as your divorce attorney, to reach a mutually beneficial agreement rather than relying on expensive court proceedings.
  • Confidentiality: Mediation is confidential, meaning private information and sensitive issues can be discussed without fear of public exposure.
  • Control: In mediation, both parties have more control over the outcome of the divorce as they work together to develop an agreement that meets both of their needs. This can be particularly important for gray divorces, where you may have built a life together over many years and have complex financial and emotional ties.
  • Preservation of Relationships: Mediation can also help preserve relationships between the parties, especially if you have children or grandchildren. By working together to develop a solution that works for everyone, you can maintain a more amicable relationship moving forward.
  • Less Stressful: Mediation can be less stressful than traditional litigation, as it typically involves a more collaborative and cooperative process. This can be particularly important for older adults who may be more vulnerable to stress and other health issues.

Overall, mediation can effectively minimize the negative impact of a gray divorce while helping maintain control, preserve relationships, and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.

Our Experienced Divorce Attorneys Can Help You Find Solutions

Choosing the right divorce professional is the most important of all gray divorce issues. At Plekan Law, we can help you work through your divorce issues using a mediation process for an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces tend to be easier and more cost-effective than the alternative. 

Work with us to find agreeable answers for a divorce settlement. We help you negotiate an equitable distribution of assets, retirement benefits and fund issues, estate planning issues, healthcare, and alimony or post-separation support disagreements. We can help you find solutions to your sticking points with a spouse so you can move forward with your life in peace.