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3 reasons for the surprising increase in gray divorce rates

On Behalf of | Apr 20, 2024 | Divorce and Family Law

Both the overall marriage rate and the divorce rate have dropped in the last few decades in the U.S. However, one group of people has more risk than ever before of a potential divorce. Specifically, those over the age of 50 are now more likely to face divorce than they were 30 years ago.

For adults over the age of 65, divorce rates have roughly tripled since 1990. People who have remained married for years and who are close to or past the age of retirement are more likely than ever before to divorce. The following are a few of the issues that likely help to explain the rise in gray divorce filings.

Empty nest syndrome

Many couples try to make their marriages work for the benefit of their children. They do not want to cause economic instability all the children are still young and dependent. Couples may then decide to divorce once their children have become independent later in life. Many people pursuing gray divorces are only acting now on issues that have affected their happiness for many years. The idea of remaining married while living together through retirement may spur some people into action.

Reduced social stigma

In 1990, the year compared to recent divorce rates, there was still substantial social stigma attached to the idea of divorce. Particularly if people practice a religion or have conservative family members, the idea of people judging or shunning them may have kept people from ending unhappy or unhealthy marriages. With fewer people judging those who file for divorce, spouses may now feel more comfortable making a decision to change their status.

Shifting expectations about life

Many elements of life may have changed over the course of someone’s long-term marriage. Higher life expectancy may make people feel anxious about the possibility of spending two decades or more in a retired lifestyle with their spouse. People also now have different expectations for their romantic relationships and their lives overall. People are more likely to openly pursue their own happiness and to prioritize their own happiness instead of consistently sacrificing for others.

This is particularly true for those who have stayed in an unhappy marriage for years for the benefit of their children. Whether someone wants to travel or simply wants a partner who does an equal share of the work around the home, changing ideas about what marriage and retirement should be like may convince people that divorce is their best option.

Gray divorces are subject to the same laws as other divorce proceedings, but they can result in particularly lasting implications for older adults. As such, properly preparing for divorce can make a major difference when someone is likely to live on a fixed income during or after a divorce.