The Rise of the “Gray Divorce”

Over the past few years, social scientists have noted an increase in the number of divorces among older couples. One of the first studies on the subject, which was conducted at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, looked at the increase in so-called “gray divorces” between 1990 and 2010. In 1990, the study reports, divorce among couples age 50 and over was just 10 per cent. By contrast, the number jumped to 25 per cent by 2010.

The trend seems to cross international borders, as well. In England, older divorcing couples are sometimes referred to as “silver splitters.” In 2011, the number of people over age 60 getting a divorce in the UK was 15,300. In 1991, however, the number was just 8,700.

The phenomenon also occurs in Canada, where divorce rates have decreased for all age groups except people over 50.

Why Do Older Couples Separate?

According to the study performed at Bowling Green, there are many reasons why more people in the Baby Boomer generation and beyond are choosing to end their marriages.
Social scientists believe one of the main reasons for the increase in gray divorce is changing attitudes about marriage. Whereas divorce was something of a social taboo even just a century ago, modern individuals don’t generally regard divorce as a moral issue. Rather, people today are more likely to accept a divorce as a reasonable decision made by two adults.

In other cases, people near retirement age and wish to be content in their golden years. An unhappy marriage can be a major impediment to fully enjoying life as a retiree. Once children are grown and away from the family home, married couples can grow apart, leading to a mutual decision to divorce.

Additionally, people are living longer. Moreover, people are experiencing good health and more active lifestyles well into their senior years compared to even just a generation ago.

Divorce for Seniors

Generally, the divorce process for an older couple does not differ from the process for a younger couple or spouses in middle age. There are, however, sometimes unique financial issues to consider. Many older people have significant resources, such as retirement plans, they have accumulated over time. Understandably, they want to preserve as much of their wealth as possible. In other cases, older adults have limited resources because they are no longer in the workforce. A divorce can be a huge blow to their financial stability.
In either case, it is important for older couples to work with an experienced family law lawyer to ensure their separation is properly handled.