Why are gray divorces on the rise?

Older couples are divorcing at a record pace.

Research has shown that, while the overall divorce rate remains relatively steady, the divorce rate for couples over the age of 50 is steadily rising. Couples in that key demographic are divorcing at more than twice the rate they did previously. For couples in subsequent marriages, the rate is even higher, with three times the number of those ending in divorce.

There are no easy answers as to why older couples are choosing to end their marriages at a record pace, but there are some factors that are likely contributing to the boon.

The "longevity bonus"

Longer life spans equal longer marriages. That's just basic math. Unfortunately, that math doesn't "add up" for everyone, however. Americans are living, on average, to the age of at least 80, with many of us living even longer. That leaves about 20 years following retirement for a couple to be at home, together. If you're in an unhappy marriage, the thought of being with someone throughout your twilight years might be unbearable. After all, would you want to be unhappily tied together for 20 years (or more) without even the distraction of a daily job to give you some peace and quiet? Some couples are choosing to call it quits as retirement approaches because they think they'd be happier alone during that time than with their spouse.

Increased emphasis on personal satisfaction/fulfillment

Another key reason why older couples are choosing divorce more often is an increased societal emphasis on personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Previously, for women in particular, society emphasized their role as homemakers and mothers above all else. Now that the children are grown, however, their priorities shift. They now have the freedom to pursue their own interests, follow their own dreams and focus on their own happiness. This can be difficult if your spouse doesn't have the same interests; divorce may be a better solution rather than living an unfulfilling life for decades down the road.

Economic independence

The "baby boomer" generation is among the most financially stable in our country right now. In addition to overall financial freedom, the women of this generation in particular have more economic independence than prior generations ever did. This is because the majority of them have worked outside the home for years or even decades; many of them have even been the primary breadwinners of their households. With increased financial security and freedom comes choices. They can choose to end an unhappy marriage whereas someone without such a stable economic outlook might feel stuck together for monetary reasons.

Reduced stigma

In the past, society (and many people individually) looked down on divorce. It wasn't, in many cases, widely accepted outside of exigent circumstances, both from societal and religious perspectives. Nowadays, however, those stigmas have largely disappeared. People are free to divorce without fear of social repercussions. Many of the people now divorcing are children of divorce themselves, and are unworried about society's external view of the process.

Regardless of the reasons why a gray divorce is happening, the fact remains that divorce for older couples is more complicated than for a younger couple. Gray divorce often entails prenuptial agreements, alimony payments, and complex property division situations. It's definitely not something you want to go alone. Reach out to an experienced family law attorney with the knowledge and skills to help you as you go through this difficult time.