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Why Are “Grey” Divorces on The Rise?

Boyd Family Law Dec. 30, 2021

Not all that long ago, divorce was socially frowned upon and legally complicated to obtain. Over the past several decades, however, that has changed. For the most part, both the stigma attached to divorce and many of the legal barriers to obtaining a divorce have been removed. Interestingly, while the overall divorce rate is finally trending down, the “grey” divorce rate is rising in America. Fort Worth divorce attorney Jon Boyd explains why grey divorces are on the rise.

What Is a Grey Divorce?

The term “grey” divorce refers to the separation or divorce of an older couple who has been married for a long time. The term refers to the hair color often associated with older people. While divorce, in general, was once uncommon, divorce among older couples occurred even less frequently. The general thinking was that after spending decades with someone, what was the point in divorcing at that point? It was also not economically feasible for most older women to divorce the husband who had typically been the breadwinner for the entire marriage. Today, however, older couples are divorcing at a higher rate than their younger counterparts. In a paper entitled “Gray Divorce: A Growing Risk Regardless of Class or Education,” Bowling Green State University researchers found that the divorce rate for couples aged 50 and older has doubled since 1990, and it has more than doubled for married individuals aged 65 and older.

Reasons for The Increase in Grey Divorces

After increasing for decades, the divorce rate for the general population has finally leveled off and appears to even be declining in recent years. Why then, are older couples apparently divorcing more often now? Experts offer several explanations for the dramatic increase in grey divorces, including:

  • Finances – without a doubt, finances and money management are among the top reasons couples give for the cause of arguments and issues within any marriage. Older couples are no exception. In fact, the older the parties are, the more likely the financial divide is a problem. The husband may have controlled and managed the couple’s finances for the entirety of the marriage. That can lead to resentment on the part of the wife. Where a wife would once have believed that she had no option but to remain in the marriage, that is no longer the case. The law now acknowledges the contributions – and value – of a stay-at-home spouse to a lengthy marriage and provides for spousal support when applicable.

    • Living longer – Americans can look forward to living much longer than their ancestors did just a century ago. Living longer means that a divorce at 50 or 60 does not mean the end of your life. On the contrary, advances in health care and science mean that you could begin a whole new life (with or without a new partner) after a grey divorce.

    • Changing societal views – society no longer passes judgment, or frowns down at, someone who is divorced. This makes it much easier for an older individual to contemplate divorce.

    • Empty nest – couples used to remain together “for the sake of the children.” Today, couples who did remain together are rethinking that decision and realizing that they are not required to remain together. Even more importantly, they often realize for the first time that it is ok to focus on themselves. Wanting to make big changes after the last child leaves the nest is common. That leads to more and more older couples choosing to divorce.

    • Mid-life crisis. The concept of a “mid-life crisis” was not known. What is new is how married couples handle it. Gone are the days when the dutiful wife simply turned the other cheek when her husband started up an affair with a younger woman. In fact, today the wife is just as likely to have that affair – and both parties may decide to end the marriage as a result.

Contact a Fort Worth Divorce Attorney

If you are in a long-term marriage and are contemplating a “grey” divorce, contact an experienced Fort Worth divorce attorney at Boyd Family Law to schedule your appointment today.