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3 reasons gray divorce often differs from divorces earlier in life

On Behalf of | Feb 14, 2024 | Divorce

Gray divorces were once relatively uncommon. Older adults who had spent years together were less likely to divorce than younger couples. However, researchers have found that that trend reversed in the last few decades.

Younger people are now less likely to file for divorce than older adults. Those over the age of 50 who have remained married for decades are now at increased risk of divorce when compared to prior generations. A gray divorce often has significantly different implications than a divorce earlier in life. What can people expect if they decide to divorce after many years of marriage?

More marital assets to divide

Long-term marriages often mean that people have accumulated marital wealth for decades. It can be far more challenging to divide marital property after a long-term marriage as opposed to a marriage that only lasted a few years. There may be real property, retirement accounts and various other high-value resources included in a marital state.

Increased risk of financial dependence

Long-term marriages sometimes see one spouse leaving the workforce for the benefit of the marital unit. A non-working spouse can raise children, take care of aging parents and manage a household so that the other spouse can more fully focus on their career.

A dependent spouse may not have the ability to earn income competitively, especially later in life. They may also lack personal assets that could help them remain financially independent after a divorce. Therefore, the lower-earning or dependent spouse may need to request financial support from the other in the form of alimony.

Disruption to the family unit

There is often an assumption that divorce after children have reached adulthood should involve less conflict than divorce earlier in life. However, adult children are more likely to learn the gritty details of why their parents decided to divorce. They are also more likely to pass judgment on their parents and take sides. Gray divorces often lead to one parent feeling alienated from the children who side with their spouse or blame them for the divorce.

It’s worth noting that many people preparing for gray divorce may find that they have a difficult time adjusting to life after the end of a multi-decade marriage. Social and professional support when handling the emotional consequences of a gray divorce can prove invaluable for those trying to move on from an unhealthy marriage during their golden years.

With all of this said, knowing what to expect when divorcing later in life can take some of the risk and frustration out of a gray divorce.