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What is gray divorce, and why is it on the rise?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2024 | Divorce |

Divorce can occur at any point with little advance warning. Unlike marriage itself, divorce does not require the consent of both spouses. Only one individual has to decide that the marriage is beyond saving for a divorce to occur.

People who have remained married for years or even decades may expect to remain married for the rest of their lives. However, they might soon find themselves contributing to the growing trend of gray divorces.

What is a gray divorce?

As some people could likely infer from the name, a gray divorce involves the end of a marriage that has lasted for decades. Also sometimes called a “silver splitter,” a gray divorce involves people who are age 50 or older. Gray divorces can be different from divorces sought by people earlier in life because the marital estate could be relatively large and the spouses may not have much time to rebuild before they reach retirement age. In some cases, the divorce me actually occur after the spouses HAVE already retired.

Why is gray divorce on the rise?

Overall, the number of divorces occurring in the United States has declined noticeably in recent years. Gray divorces are the one exception to that trend. Since the 1990s, the rates of divorces among those over the age of 50 have roughly doubled. For those over the age of 65, the chance of divorce has approximately tripled.

Numerous factors contribute to the significant increase in gray divorces. Reduced social stigma makes spouses feel more comfortable with the idea of ending a marriage. Longer life spans and increasing expectations for marital relationships can combine to push people into making a drastic change later in life. People may realize that they don’t want the same things as their spouses, and they may feel more confident about making a change due to the current culture.

The laws that apply to gray divorces are the same as the laws that guide any other divorce proceedings. Still, the possibility of significant financial setbacks after a gray divorce may inspire people to use a different approach to divorce proceedings later in life. Setting clear priorities and focusing on long-term financial stability can be beneficial for those preparing for a gray divorce. Realizing that a long-term marriage may not necessarily last indefinitely can help those considering divorce later in life to make thoughtful decisions about their rights and options.