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Grey Divorce: What To Know and How To Avoid It

The overall rate of divorce has declined in the United States in the last few decades, but one demographic whose rate of divorce is that of people aged fifty and older. Grey divorce is a reference to this, the practice of older couples divorcing after having been married for a long time, many over twenty or thirty years.

This term first became mainstream in 2004, where the approach of midlife crises change in scope and direction. In 2015, ten out of every thousand couples over the age of fifty pursued divorce, double the divorce rate twenty years earlier.

Divorce is always a challenge, an unwanted or unexpected part of a person’s life but in many cases, needed and inevitable. While the social stigma divorce once had has faded, the same cannot be said for those who divorce after fifty. Divorce can be a messy, embarrassing process, affecting those of a different age more profoundly.

Growing apart, aging, self-improvement, finances, spending habits, sex, family, life expectancy, nostalgia, and the pursuit of a more active lifestyle are all reasons why someone might seek divorce past the age of fifty. It’s different for everyone, and the desire to pursue a divorce in your greying years can seem sudden to those around you, including yourself.

We’re All Aging

Aging isn’t fun for anyone. Backs give out, nights can be sleepless and eyes just aren’t what they used to be. What’s worse than aging is being around someone who acts old or makes you feel old. Complaints, negativity, and abuse are unwelcome reminders of aging in the worst way. Some might see divorce as a gateway to youth, an opportunity to date someone younger or engage in more youthful activities. When your partner has an old-fashioned mindset, it can make day to day difficult to deal with, especially when you feel you’ve done all you can do.

Couples will often list their reasons for divorce as having grown apart or no longer working. In a grey divorce, couples or individuals might suddenly realize that their lives are not what they used to be when first married, even decades later. Since the stigma around divorce is diminishing overall, the end of a marriage that is decades in the making is no longer as shameful as it once was. Many grey divorcees are realizing they would rather enjoy the years they have remaining than squandering themselves on the attachment of an unwanted marriage.

Many couples will choose to begin their divorce proceedings after their nests have emptied, the children are away for college or having begun lives of their own. Partners who have dedicated their lives to parenthood and child-rearing might ask themselves what else there is in life, no longer recognizing their partner, themselves, or their lives. This is where divorce becomes a more realistic path.

A New Lease On Life

There is much individualism in the Baby Boomer generation, as well as the increasingly aging Gen-Xers. It is always of the utmost importance that a person places their own needs and joys ahead of others, which can lead to new pursuits, lack of satisfaction with life, and infidelity. These are all major reasons for a grey divorce, as these aspects of individualism are also not seen with the same stigma as decades before.

A change in life expectancy rates, quality of life, health care, diversity of pursuits, and shifting technology have all added to more complex lives for Baby Boomers. With the increase of life spans and comforts afforded to those aged fifty and above, older people have stopped shying from divorce and have begun diversifying their interests and pursuing new lives. Away from their partners, many of them seek new happiness. Sex drives, changes in sexual appetite, and the sudden desire for new creative changes in sex can be additional reasons why couples grow apart. Sometimes divorce mediation and personal meditation can work to amend these issues, but only if your spouse is not apathetic or indifferent.

While not as impactful as on younger children, grey divorce can still impact families. This guilt and fear can affect the pursuit of divorce, and the process of adapting to change is more difficult for some adults. Shifting family dynamics can lead to dramatic difficulties. Grey divorce can affect family finances, traditions, and singular family units. Division of assets, the altering of wills, and the ownership of property can also be affected by this sort of divorce. Life insurance policies, Social Security benefits, investments, and retirement are all affected by a grey divorce. This can create complex, improbable scenarios and necessitate the need for a good family divorce lawyer. When the course of life changes and is disrupted, suddenly a lifetime of patterns and behaviors don’t have the value they once did, creating new difficulties.

Divorce is difficult and draining regardless of the situation, and a family divorce lawyer makes these situations easier by taking much of the work away from you. Joining a support group, attending therapy and finding a good and trustworthy family lawyer can help guide you through the difficult, uncomfortable process. Your attorney should be skilled and gentle in how they handle divorce of any age. Reach out to them to initiate the process of your divorce, even if it’s only to ask a question or resolve a problem.

About the Author:

Jarrod Hays

Jarrod Hays is the founder of Skyview Law, a Family law firm in Richland. He is licensed to practice law in Washington State and the Federal Court in the Western District of Washington. Jarrod earned his law degree from Lewis and Clark College in 2008. Jarrod is rated as one of the 10 Best Attorneys under 40 for Client Satisfaction in Washington for 2019.


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