Experts on divorce and separation

Once a quarter we will have a guest author: an expert in their field, or a qualified divorce professional, or a well known writer, who will share an article or insights on a divorce related topic. Nothing written constitutes as legal, financial or therapeutic advice.

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The Rise of Gray Divorces

By Marla Levie, BSW, MA

As a business owner that caters to those who service the older population, I’ve been interested in recent articles highlighting studies about the increasing divorce rate among higher age groups. 

WHAT ARE GRAY DIVORCES?

These later life divorces, commonly referred to as gray divorces, are most prevalent for those 50 and older.  As of 2014, couples in this age group were two times more likely to divorce than they were in 1990. 

FIRST, SECOND OR MULTIPLE MARRIAGES?

Statistics indicate that one in four current divorces is in the over 50 age group. In addition, these statistics report that second or third marriages have higher divorce rates than first-time marriages. Yet, more than half of gray divorces result from first marriages, as well as marriages of more than 20 years.

WHY THE TREND IN THE OVER 50 CROWD DIVORCING?

This new trend has spiked the interest of many researchers searching for the cause of the rise in gray divorces. While this change cannot be attributed to one specific reason, there are many different speculated causes. Although divorce rates have risen over time, this does not necessarily mean that people’s discontentment with their marriages have directly risen at the same rate. However, it does indicate that today’s conditions make it more possible for couples who have been married for many years to get divorced. 

FEWER STIGMAS TO DIVORCE

Compared with the past, there is much less stigma surrounding getting and being divorced. While divorces were once looked down upon or seen as an embarrassment, these judgements have significantly lessened. Now, divorce is mostly an accepted life choice. 

TRADITIONAL WOMEN’S ROLES ARE CHANGING

Further, the evolving status of women in society has most likely contributed to this change. As more and more women participate in and take on larger roles in the work force, they are less financially dependent on their spouses. Therefore, they are more able to exert their independence in other ways too.  This probably is partly why women are typically the initiators of their gray divorce.

POPULATION IS LIVING LONGER AND WANT A QUALITY LIFE

In speaking to experienced divorce attorneys, they report anecdotally that another reason for this phenomenon is our increased life expectancy combined with increased health later in life. Fifty years ago, an unhappily married person in their fifties or sixties may have simply accepted their predicament due to their age. Today, people in this age group are hopeful of a much longer, healthier and active life for years to come.  As a result, they do not wish to spend their remaining time in an unhappy or unfulfilled relationship. 

GRAY DIVORCES WILL CONTINUE TO IMPACT SOCIETY

Although gray divorces could be due to a multitude of reasons, as every divorce results from its own unique set of circumstances, there is no doubt that the gray divorce rate has steadily grown and will continue to impact our society. 

About the Author: Marla Levie, BSW, MA, is the President of Focus on Aging. Founding her firm more than 25 years ago, Focus on Aging specializes in marketing consulting to organizations serving older adults.  Marla has been a Lilac Tree volunteer for ten years and serves as a member of their Marketing Committee. If you would like to learn more about Marla and her organizations please email her or call her at 847-480-0617. 

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