What is Behind “Gray Divorce” Rates Exploding?

couple in gray divorce

“Gray Divorce,” or divorce involving those age 50 and older, also referred to as Baby Boomers, is on the rise.

The divorce rate for this group has doubled since the 1990s and there are a number of factors that have contributed to this climb.

The financial implications for divorce on those over age 50 can be significant, especially on women.

So, what has given rise to this increased Gray Divorce rate, and what are the financial implications particular to women? There seem to be four main driving forces which are addressed below:

1. Divorce Stigma: The stigma once associated with divorce has relaxed substantially. It has become easier for women to walk away from an unhappy marriage or from an emotionally draining situation. This is especially true when women see many of their colleagues, peers, or others near to them doing so. Additionally, women are fortunate to see longer life expectancies, thanks to medical treatments and healthcare information. When women are unhappy in their marriage and realize their marriage may last another 30 years, they question whether or not staying in the marriage is right for them for a long time to come.

2. The COVID Pandemic has been blamed for many things, and the rising divorce rate is no exception. Couples who were in less-than-great situations before COVID were more than ready to break free from the tension and fighting after being home for months on end together. Women who once overlooked issues of dismay in their marriage were looking at these issues under a microscope now, including income, employment, and general satisfaction. The once-daily separate routines that had provided a healthy outlet were now gone. This perfect storm drove many women to view this as the right time to leave their marriage.

3. Financial Concerns: Women of Gray Divorce are often even more financially vulnerable than those younger than them, as women sacrifice earning power, may have smaller amounts saved, earned less throughout the marriage, or were out of the workforce for periods of time, and have longer life expectancies. Women often find themselves unable to maintain the lifestyle to which they were accustomed and must settle for lower-paying positions and career moves as they near age 60 or more. Education is key for women. Knowing your income and expenses and assets is crucial. It is a good idea for women to find a financial adviser whom they can work with post-divorce to plan retirement and strategize financial security.

4. Postponed and Repeat Divorces: Many women stay in their marriage for the sake of their children or to keep the family intact. When the kids are gone and it is just the married couple left in the home, there is time to re-evaluate the marriage, soul search to find happiness and determine what the future looks like, whether married or divorced. This may be the first time a woman has to really sit back and think about her own happiness and future. At the same time, many Baby Boomers are on their 2nd or more marriage. Studies show that the divorce rate for those who have been married more than once is 2.5 times higher than those couples in their first marriage. Prior to entering into a second or third marriage, consider the financial implications and potentially entering into a prenuptial agreement.

While Gray Divorce, over 50’s and Baby Boomers can face financial obstacles, one’s health and happiness is paramount. If you are considering a Gray Divorce or have questions or concerns about your situation, know that we are here to help and discuss those issues with you.