Gray Divorce, the phenomenon of ending a marriage after age 50, is on the rise and has been for some years now. It’s also one of the specialties of our law firm.
But what’s behind this trend of splitting at midlife or later?
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A year ago, the American Bar Association wrote about how “70s are the new 50s,” distinguishing the differences between Gray Divorce and a split involving younger couples.
The article offers these statistics: 25 percent of all divorces today involve people age 50 or older, with those featuring couples 65 and up counting for one in ten divorces. What, exactly, is going on?
First, it’s understandable if, after a few decades together, a couple has grown apart or no longer connects in the way they did when they were younger. We change throughout our lives and sometimes, we change so much that we are no longer compatible with our spouses.
No harm, no foul, right?
By age 50, many couples have been together for several decades or longer, and it’s often the time when children are leaving for college and living adult lives of their own – pitting a couple in close proximity to focus only on each other. It’s easy to fall into a rut when you’re chasing after your children and only realize there’s a rift in the relationship once those children are gone.
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Another reason for the spike in Gray Divorce is that people are living longer, and if you’re looking down the road to another 20, 30, 40 years of life, and you haven’t created the partnership you want or need with your spouse, you might want to go it alone or see what else is out there.
Whatever the reason, divorce at any age has its issues, and the older couples get, and the more assets and resources they amass, the more complicated a divorce might be. Especially if they’ve already retired!
Regardless of the situation, though, the best way to proceed with a marital breakup is to articulate your individual values, identify what’s important to you today and for the future, and let this information guide your split. You won’t get everything you want – no one does – but it will be easier to compromise and to divorce with dignity when you know what matters most.
While the pandemic itself is mostly behind us, we are living with COVID-19 as a regular virus for the most part, and life is starting to look more livable. Here’s a look at what we can expect in 2023 trends in family law and divorce.
Less Adversarial Approaches to Divorce
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People are realizing how beneficial it is to break up with dignity and grace, and how much more affordable it can be, so I anticipate more couples wanting a less adversarial approach to divorce. Sometimes called “no-fault divorce,” it’s always better to look ahead as opposed to looking behind at what caused discontent.
More Gray Divorce
As the Baby Boomer generation continues to age and Generation X is closely on their heels, we will continue to see a surge in Gray Divorce, the term for couples who break up after age 50. These relationships may have simply run their course, with the couple growing apart as they advance in career and personal pursuits.
Every year, more lawyers become certified Collaborative practitioners once they see the benefits of a team approach to divorce. This dovetails with the prediction of less adversarial approaches to divorce in the year ahead!
More Divorce Filings by Women
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This has been a hot trend in the 21st century as women gain financial independence. That will impact 2023 trends in divorce, too! Fully two-thirds of divorce filings in recent years have been initiated by women. It used to be that a woman only had access and agency when she was married. Not so anymore!
Continued Decline in Divorce Overall
Younger generations are not as quick to marry as their forebears, which makes them cautious and mindful – and less likely to divorce when they delay marriage and think it through more fully. For the last decade, the divorce rate in America has steadily declined, and we will likely continue to see that fall in the year ahead!
May is Older Americans Month, a term I hate because after all, what is an Older American? It is supposed to refer to the elders of our communities, which I guess I’d be considered, but I certainly don’t feel that I am!
Similarly, Gray Divorce, the growing trend since 1990 of couples past age 50 who call it quits, refers to older adults who decide to break up once they’ve gone gray. Again, not the best term, though it does roll off the tongue.
Regardless of the terminology, though, Gray Divorce is a growing trend that is predicted to explode by 2030! We support more and more Gray Divorce clients, who are by definition older Americans, and I find there are some similarities among these cases.
First, people reach a certain point in their lives, or their relationships, when they feel confident enough to know what they want and buck societal expectations to go for it.
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Maybe they wanted to leave earlier, but worried they’d field criticism, judgment or abandonment by friends or family. Then they get to a point where they realize that no one’s opinion matters other than their own.
Also, there are some couples who enjoyed a respectable marriage – 20 or 30 years, perhaps – and simply outgrew the relationship or each other. There is nothing to lament! It’s OK to move on at midlife.
Especially because we are all living longer these days and may have many careers – why wouldn’t the same evolution happen with our personal pursuits?
Alisa Peskin-Shepherd on FOX 2 Detroit in 2016, talking about Gray Divorce
Finally, many couples wait until their children are grown to call it quits. They may think that it will be easier on their kids once they’re out of the house – but I have news for you. It is NEVER easy on the children when a couple divorces. Sorry to say – even fully grown adults with kids of their own will experience emotions and have opinions if their parents break up.
Regardless of the reasons, Gray Divorce is a fact of the 21st century. Learn more about it here. And check out my interview on FOX 2 Detroit about Gray Divorce.
And if you’d like to discuss how this might apply to you, click here to set up a consultative call.
As people live longer, and more independently, it’s no wonder we’re seeing a trend of rising divorce rates for Americans older than 50.
It used to be that once a couple passed several decades together, they were in it until the end. Not so anymore. Today, a marriage that lasts 20 years can be considered a success, even if it ends and the parties go their separate ways.
The trend of divorcing after age 50, known as Gray Divorce, has been growing for some time now. While Americans are divorcing less than they did in the 1980s and 1990s, (in fact, overall divorce rates are at a 40-year low!), the number of people ending marriages after age 50 has doubled since 1990, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Fully, one-quarter of all American divorces today involve couples older than 50!!
Of course, it’s never easy to dissolve a marriage, no less one that has existed for decades! You’ve accumulated stuff, emotions, relationships, and property, and dismantling that union takes time and effort.
In a Collaborative Divorce, therapists and other professionals can help you work through any issues or feelings that arise. They may also make recommendations for your adult children, should they need or want to work through their own feelings about your breakup.
One of the biggest issues facing Gray Divorce is the financial impact of what can be considerable assets accumulated over time. The older a couple is, the more time they’ve had to save for retirement, buy property, acquire investments, and more. Financial experts can help inventory the marital assets and guide the equitable division based on a variety of factors.
While it can be a rude awakening to divorce after decades of marriage and bring all the expected loneliness and sadness that a split can generate, it’s not all bad when divorcing later in life. Here are some ways to see a silver lining in your split.
You’ve likely had a good run at marriage and some happy memories to boot. Celebrate that! And now you have plenty of time for a Part 2.
You’re not too old to start fresh. What have you always wanted to do? Where have you wanted to live? Now is the time to do it all!
You likely have enough assets to allow yourself some time and space to pursue new interests and new people.
You have a chance to get to know yourself again. Everything from here on out is focused on you – your interests, talents, and more. Enjoy!!
You get to redefine who you are, and who you want to be. Shed your former roles, and explore who you might become. Introduce that person to the world.
Recently, my mother, who is 80 years old, celebrated her bat mitzvah.
Now, most people know that a bat mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age that typically happens at 13 (or 12 for girls in some communities), and frankly, it’s just something that you are when you turn that age. You are considered a Jewish adult in terms of your responsibilities under Jewish law, whether you read from the Torah, have a party, or otherwise celebrate the occasion.
So she decided that when she turned 80, she would read from the Torah, which is a huge feat, especially if you have not spent your life reading and chanting biblical Hebrew.
My mom followed in the footsteps of her daughters and her grandchildren before her; all of us read Torah in synagogue. It’s something I learned in my 30s – not as a kid. Anything we do later in life is understandably harder, but also so much more meaningful.
My mother wanted to participate on that meaningful level, too, to express her beliefs and her identity, among community and family.
The event was low-key, and my mother was not nervous. She gave a d’var Torah, or speech, afterwards that related to the Torah portion that she chanted, and which tied into Judaic creative arts, a passion of hers since at least the 1980s.
She created a universal experience in a personal way, and tied it to friendships and activities in her own life. I was impressed when my mother spoke – she did a great job, and I felt inspired at the abilities of the woman who gave me life, and handed down to me some of her own smarts and determination.
This occasion resonated with me on so many levels. As a daughter, I was so proud of my mother for achieving this goal.
As a woman, I applaud the initiative to have more women leading services and participating in synagogue rituals.
As a divorce attorney, my mother’s bat mitzvah at 80 reminded me that it’s never too late to do anything that matters to you.
We hear about “gray divorce,” the trend of couples breaking up after 50. There is a trend of what I call gray-gray divorce, much older couples deciding to split.
It’s never too late to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, or make a change that enables you to live your best life.