Understanding Gray Divorce
“Gray divorce” is a term that refers to divorcing baby boomers. While it originally applied to couples married 40 years or more, the term now generally refers to any divorcing couple who may qualify with “gray hair,” thus, the term, “gray divorce.” While divorce rates are falling for most age groups, for those over the age of 50, the divorce rate is increasing. There are many reasons for gray divorce.
Reasons for Gray Divorce – The Children Have Left the Nest
In some families, the focus has always been on raising the children – or at least it has been for the past 18 – 25 years. Thus, when the last child leaves the nest, the couple finds themselves with only each other for company. This may be when they realize they have grown apart. Many participants in gray divorce express their surprise to discover they no longer have anything in common with their spouse. Some people even describe their spouse as a stranger to them.
Reasons for Gray Divorce – Retirement
Retirement can create some of the same issues as children leaving the nest. Once a spouse is no longer working, they find themselves spending more time together. While they may have found their spouse an okay dinner partner, once they are living with their spouse day and night, without the distractions that come with working full time, some couples again find they have nothing in common.
Differing Sex Drives
Throughout our lives, our sex drive varies based on a host of internal and external factors. As couples get older, their sex drives may vary wildly. This can lead to resentment, frustration, disappointment, and shame. In some marriages, the partner with little or no sex drive seeks a divorce to avoid the uncomfortable situation. In other marriages, the person with the higher sex drive decides to leave and find someone else who’s sex drive is a better match.
Reasons for Gray Divorce – You’ve Still Got a Lot of Life to Live!
People are living longer now than ever before. Average life expectancy has extended to the mid 80’s for both men and women. One in four people who are 65 today is predicted to live until the age of 90 or longer. Thus, when a person over 50 starts thinking about living the next 20 or 30 years with someone they are no longer passionate about, they decide they’d prefer to spend those years with someone they are more compatible with.
Reasons for Gray Divorce – Differing Views on How to Spend Your Time or Money
Different people view retirement (or the choice not to retire) differently. Some people look forward to slow, leisurely days of reading books and doing crossword puzzles. Other people prefer to spend their time taking hiking tours or traveling. Many couples can find a healthy balance between two different, preferred lifestyle, but some couples can’t. In a situation where the couple cannot agree on how they will spend their time, they may be more likely to divorce and seek different partners with views that are more aligned with their own.
When both parties to a marriage are working and generating an income, their spending habits may not have much of an impact. However, after one or both parties retires, the spending habits of one or both parties can impose additional stress on those living on a fixed income. A gray divorce allows each partner to spend their own money as they see fit.
Special Considerations for Those Considering a Gray Divorce
There are several considerations one must make when deciding whether or not to enter into a gray divorce. These include the division of assets, the division of retirement accounts, and the division of Social Security income (in some cases). Other considerations can include health care and the cost of health insurance. Of course, many adult children have a difficult time with their parents’ divorce.
Alternatives to a Gray Divorce
It is important to understand that divorce is not the only option an older couple has if they realize for whatever reason that they have grown apart. They may simply choose to live separately. They may choose to live in different parts of the house. They may come up with another arrangement they find satisfactory that is not as legally permanent and messy as a divorce can be. Every marriage is different. What may be the best choice for one couple may not be the best choice for another couple.
Considerations for Staying Legally Married
Reasons couples may choose to remain legally married can include religious considerations, or an attempt to keep the peace with the children. Other people consider internal motivators such as maintaining social status or wealth. Still other people have other motivations for remaining legally married.
Are You Considering a Gray Divorce?
If you are considering a gray divorce, the family law attorneys at Fait & DiLima can help. We focus exclusively on practicing family law, and have extensive experience helping couples and families find new ways to define their normal. Contact the office to schedule a consultation. Together we can discuss your options, from a legal separation to a gray divorce. You may be surprised at what you learn. We look forward to meeting you and talking with you about your situation. Call us today at (301) 888-6384.