What is Meant by a Gray Divorce? Part 1

What is Meant by a Gray Divorce? Part 1 by Susan Ingram

{2:24 minutes to read}

You may have heard the term Gray Divorce and wondered what it meant. Typically, it refers to older adults who, in their 50s, 60s and older, have divorced their spouses.

Research reveals that the divorce rate for this age group has spiked significantly over the past twenty years. Two decades ago, adults 50 and older accounted for about 10% of divorces. Today, the divorce rate for this group has risen to nearly 25%, with half of those divorces occurring in long-term first marriages. Interestingly, statistics show that the rate of divorce among other age groups has leveled-off or dropped.

So, what’s contributing to the increase in Gray Divorces? Among the significant factors, four of the most important are:

  • Empty-nest syndrome;
  • Women’s increased participation in the workforce;
  • The increase in life expectancy; and
  • The interest in meaningful relationships and active lifestyles.

In my work as a divorce mediator, I’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of older adult clients over the past several years. A typical scenario is one in which, after spending many years together raising their children, these empty-nesters find that they no longer have much in common, and thus decide to go their own ways.

I have found that often these couples are less angry toward each other than their younger divorcing counterparts. Of course, they still have heated conversations about sensitive subjects, as happens with all age groups, but the Gray Divorce couples tend to display less bitterness toward their partners.

While I, of course, discuss financial issues with all of my divorcing couples, whatever age they may be, discussions related to financial matters can take on more urgency with older couples. It’s understandable, as those going through a Gray Divorce often have less flexibility with respect to their assets.

In my next blog, I’ll talk more about the unique financial considerations for older divorcing adults.

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