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Why are “gray divorce” rates skyrocketing?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Divorce

It used to be rare to hear that a long-established couple was breaking up, especially those who were near or at retirement age – but that’s definitely changed.

These days, so-called “gray divorces” are on the rise. In fact, even though divorce rates are steadily falling among couples under 45 years of age, divorce rates among couples older than that have been increasing since the 1990s. In 2019, one out of every four divorces involved couples in their 60s or older.

There are a combination of factors causing the trend

In essence, it may come down to the simplest of explanations: The world has changed, and the forces that used to keep couples together – even when they were deeply unhappy – have grown considerably less powerful.

Gray divorces are on the rise partially because:

  • Social norms have shifted: Divorce used to be seen as a failure, and something that was even shameful. Now, people are encouraged to cut ties and move on in pursuit of personal happiness. Divorce has become so common that it no longer has much effect on someone’s social standing.
  • People are living longer: While longer lifespans are undoubtedly positive, people are starting to reevaluate their priorities and relationships as they enter the later stages of their lives. When the prospect of spending another twenty years of active life with someone they no longer love comes into focus, many couples decide to split and look for other forms of fulfillment.
  • Women have economic independence: Many couples stayed together simply because their financial situation didn’t permit any other option, especially in eras where women were largely homemakers and dependent on their husbands. Now, most women have their own careers, and that means they can move on when a marriage no longer works.

Ultimately, people in their golden years are no longer “settled” the way they once were. Retirement may actually serve as a catalyst for them to evaluate their lives and decide it is time to pursue unfulfilled dreams that they once set aside.

If you find yourself increasingly questioning whether you want to remain married, it can help to talk your situation over and get more information about your legal options. That way, you can be prepared, regardless of what the future holds.