Gray Divorce and How to Get through Divorce Late in Life


Divorce isn’t exclusive to younger couples or those in midlife. Increasingly, older American couples are choosing to split after their kids have grown and retirement looms ahead. Referred to as “gray divorce,” this phenomenon has seen a doubling since 1990, while the overall divorce rate has slightly decreased.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of gray divorce, reasons behind its rise, and what individuals can do during and after the process to ensure a fulfilling life post-divorce.

What is Gray Divorce?

Gray divorce refers to couples over the age of 50, particularly baby boomers, who decide to end their long-term marriages. These couples may have spent decades together before making the difficult decision to separate, which can be baffling to their children and loved ones. On average, 10 out of every 1,000 married individuals in this age group choose to split each year. Notably, almost one-third of all gray divorces occur among couples who shared 30 or more years of marriage together, with 1 in 10 couples married for 40 or more years before opting for divorce.

Reasons for Gray Divorce

  1. Societal Acceptance of Divorce: In today’s more accepting society, divorce is less stigmatized, and many older couples find it easier to part ways when they realize their marriage isn’t fulfilling.
  2. Growing Apart: As people age, they change, and sometimes these changes lead couples to grow apart. Couples approaching retirement may realize that the spark in their marriage has faded or that they no longer share common interests and goals.
  3. Life Expectancy and Happiness: With increased life expectancy, older individuals want to ensure they spend their remaining years happily, which may lead to divorce if the marriage is no longer fulfilling.
  4. Empty Nest Syndrome: As children move out, some couples rediscover their connection, while others realize they no longer have anything holding them together.
  5. No Longer Staying Together for the Kids: Some couples stay together until their children are grown, only to separate when the family dynamic is no longer impacted.
  6. Infidelity or Addiction: Affairs and addiction can lead to the breakdown of a marriage, even in later years.
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What to Do During and After Gray Divorce

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding a gray divorce, individuals have the opportunity to thrive post-divorce. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Legal Processes and Updates: Take care of all legal processes, such as the distribution of assets, debts, and social security benefits. If needed, consider alimony (spousal support) and healthcare arrangements.
  2. Financial Planning: Meet with a financial advisor to secure your financial future, especially if retirement plans have been affected.
  3. Lifestyle Adjustments: Evaluate your core values and set fulfilling goals for yourself. Seek support from a life coach or therapist if needed.
  4. Dating After Divorce: If you’re interested in dating again, keep an open mind and take things slow. Be clear about your deal-breakers and focus on finding happiness.

A Note for Adult Children

Gray divorce can significantly impact adult children, leading to feelings of shock, anger, sadness, and grief. If you’re an adult child dealing with your parents’ divorce:

  1. Validate Your Feelings: Understand that your emotions are valid, and it’s okay to take time to process the news and adjust to the changes.
  2. Seek Support: Consider seeking support from professionals experienced in working with adult children of gray divorce or join support groups to connect with others going through similar experiences.


Gray divorce presents unique challenges and opportunities for individuals over the age of 50 who decide to end their long-term marriages. With societal attitudes toward divorce shifting, more people are choosing to pursue happiness and fulfillment in their later years. It is essential to approach gray divorce with careful consideration, seeking support when needed, and embracing the chance for personal growth and new beginnings.

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1. What is gray divorce?

Gray divorce refers to couples over the age of 50, particularly baby boomers, who decide to end their long-term marriages.

2. Why is gray divorce on the rise?

Gray divorce is increasing due to societal acceptance of divorce, growing apart, longer life expectancies, empty nest syndrome, no longer staying together for the kids, infidelity, and addiction.

3. How can individuals thrive after a gray divorce?

By taking care of legal processes, seeking financial planning, making lifestyle adjustments, and considering dating again, individuals can embrace a fulfilling life post-divorce.

4. How does gray divorce impact adult children?

Gray divorce can place significant stress on adult children as they grieve the loss of their family unit. Validating feelings and seeking support are crucial for their healing process.

5. Where can I find support during a gray divorce?

Seek support from professionals experienced in working with adult children of gray divorce or join support groups with others facing similar situations.

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