Divorce is no longer just for the young, research shows

This article looks at how longevity and financial independence among women are driving gray divorce upwards.

There is a common perception in society that divorce usually involves couples who have been together for a relatively short time, such as young or middle-aged couples. Many people assume that older married couples are somehow less likely to divorce. Recent research shows, however, that these assumptions are completely wrong. As the Los Angeles Times recently pointed out, divorce among those aged 50 and over is soaring and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. From increased life expectancy to greater financial independence of women, researchers have offered a number of explanations for the boom in so-called gray divorce.

How common is gray divorce?

For those who believe that older married couples are less likely to call it quits than younger couples are then the following statistics may come as a shock. Today, 15 percent of people over 50 are divorced compared to just 2.8 percent 50 years ago. Furthermore, about a quarter of all divorces today involve at least one spouse who is over 50.

That rise in gray divorce comes at a time when overall divorce rates are actually falling. In fact, one study predicts that while the number of people in middle age who go through divorce will increase by a modest 10,000 by 2030, for older Americans the increase will be a much more substantial 80,000.

Longevity and independence

The rise of gray divorce is due to a confluence of factors, not least of which is longevity. As people live longer, they are increasingly questioning why they should continue in an unhappy marriage even after reaching retirement and after the children have moved out. A person who is 65 today, for example, can reasonably expect to live another 20 years.

Another big reason for the divorce boom is that more women are working and are thus more financially independent. While it is true, as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette points out, that gray divorce still hurts women financially more than it does men, many women who have been working for most of their lives are at least in a more comfortable financial position, allowing them to choose to leave a marriage that is no longer working. Combined with the fact that divorce is simply more socially accepted nowadays than it was half a century ago and it should come as little surprise that older couples are increasingly choosing divorce.

Family law

Regardless of one's age, going through a divorce is never easy. Especially for older individuals, divorcing later in life presents unique challenges, particularly in terms of property division, pensions, and retirement planning. Anybody who is going through a divorce should reach out for professional legal help during this difficult time. An experienced family law attorney can help clients understand what their divorce options are and how to best protect their interests going forward.


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